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Tribeca 2019 Review: “For They Know Not What They Do” (2019) ★★★★★


Why do we care about religion more than our family? Why does public opinion matter more than what our loved ones have to say to us? Why do we spread hatred in the name of God when we could spread love, respect, and empathy instead? Is it because of money, power, the lack of education or society? Sadly, one fact matters – it is always up to the immediate family to decide which way to go – to accept their child, brother, sister, aunt, for who or what they are or follow the centuries-long biased perception that God only loves men and women, therefore, push others to the edge of the cliff due to their “confused” identity to know what they must live as.

“For They Know Not What They Do” follows four families and their choices after their children decided to come out. All four families learned through their experiences the importance of supporting their loved ones, letting them transition from their old to a new identity while the society has no explicit steps mentioned to set strict rules so they know once they go out as a gay, lesbian, or transgender, they won’t be attacked, harassed, or even worse, killed. Sadly, this film offers all the examples, you will hope along the journey, that never has to happen and learn from the harsh lessons of life that it’s not so forgiving.

It starts with the Robertson Family and the tragic story of Ryan Robertson, their dear son who came out as gay. But instead of embracing him and the choice he made, the family sends him to a gay conversion therapist to find God that will help cure his “confusion”. When Ryan can’t fulfill his parents’ wish, he reaches out for help from something which he thought might help him finally find God and send a message to him – drugs. Linda and Rob Robertson will have to go through the nightmarish experience to finally understand, as at some point she will say, “Our story is the acknowledgment of what we do not know hurts people. In some cases, we lose them forever”, which is sadly what happens to them.

The second family we meet is charming, cheerful and exceptionally supporting – the MacBride Family. In many cases, they must be used as an example of what real parents must do when their child decides to come out of the closet. They found wisdom and strength to not judge their oldest son when he came out as gay, but when their younger son Tim shocks them with the revelation that the only way he sees himself is as Sarah, it took them a while to digest the gut-punching news, but shortly after they never stop their daughter Sarah in a way which will bring tears to your eyes.

It’s the Baez and The Porcher’s family story where at some point you may have to find enough strength to not collapse emotionally throughout this amazingly important story. The appearance of the two families will ensure you will have no longer control over yourself as the entire story you are about to hear will simply shake you to the core and ensure that you will never be the same. Through the powerful intersection of religion, sexual orientation, and how society treats the truth by trying to kill it by spreading hatred, “For They Know Not What They Do” is the right film for anyone to start realizing what has been tried by the Church, Mosque, or any other religious institutions to inflict people with different sexual preferences, mindset and the vision of themselves which has been around for ages. And when I say for ages, I mean centuries by all means.

In the end, you will have to be prepared as it’s not easy to watch Daniel G. Karslake’s astonishing piece. From start to end, it keeps its pace by not letting the audience relax. The film perfectly handles the subject matter, touches upon religion in a very subtle way by not forcing its own opinion on people. It creates a solid balance between the society and people, heartbreak and redemption, while the mood of the film never relaxes, not even for a bit.

That said, films like this is very important to be seen as an urgent matter to address the issues we otherwise ignore. The film is specific about courage and simplicity. At some point, Dave McBride, Sarah’s father says, “If everyone has a bit of courage, there’s no need to be a hero.” Courage, in this case, is the support we should and must never neglect to give when it comes to our children – accept them for not what their heart wants or does not, but because they’re alive, around and happy despite their values and preferences which we may fail to understand.

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