Weaver shines in tale of hard-won tolerance

Prayers for Bobby , 9-11 p.m., Lifetime)

Actress Sigourney Weaver arrives at the 66th annual Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California in this file photo from January 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Exceptional performances abound in this poignant drama about a mother who realizes too late that unconditional love for her gay son is far more important than her faith in a homophobic, vindictive and judgmental God.

Based on a true story detailed in the 1995 book “Prayers For Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms With the Suicide of Her Gay Son” by late gay journalist Leroy Aarons, the film is an undeniable tour de force for Sigourney Weaver, who portrays the rigidly devout and ultimately devastated mother with a raw intensity and passion.

Moreover, the film has all the earmarks of “important television” without crossing the line into preachy melodrama, earning its tears the old-fashioned way: via a wise, evocative script and sensitive characterizations. It feels like the kind of movie that really could make a difference in the lives of actual moms and dads struggling to come to grips with a gay child’s lifestyle.

If “Bobby” comes across as a bit dated in addressing the subject, it’s because it is -- by design. It opens in 1979 and covers roughly three years’ time.

Ryan Kelley delivers a terrific, measured performance as the title character. He’s the youngest son in a close-knit, religious family of six in Walnut Creek, California, who carries around what he’s convinced is a shameful secret: He’s attracted to boys, not girls. He finally divulges this to his generally understanding older brother Ed (Austin Nichols), but Ed breaks a promise by spilling the beans to the family.

Everyone comes to accept it pretty well aside from Mom, Mary Griffith (Weaver), who turns to shrinks and Scripture in a desperate effort to keep Bobby from being damned to hell. It leads to a suicidal leap from a freeway overpass.

Some might see the proverbial gay agenda at work in “Bobby,” but in truth it’s a family drama highlighted by one woman’s wrenching journey from blind belief to tolerance, insight and ultimately activism.

Scribe Katie Ford’s superb adaptation is successful at connecting the dialogue dots and delivering a profound punch to the gut. She’s certainly fortunate to have a performer as dynamic as Weaver uttering her words. Overall, this represents one of Lifetime’s finest moments, an original that soars above the network’s typical overwrought dramatics.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter