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New movies to stream this week: ‘Pray Away,’ ‘The Evening Hour’ and more

A scene from the documentary “Pray Away.” (NETFLIX)
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Executive-produced by Ryan Murphy, “Pray Away” is the feature debut of documentarian Kristine Stolakis, who explores the damage done by Christian organizations offering what’s known as conversion or reparative therapy to gay people seeking to alter their sexual orientation. (As the film notes up front, peer-reviewed studies of the efficacy of such programs — branches of what’s known as ex-gay movement — have soundly debunked such claims.) Two groups in particular are the focus of the film, as Stolakis interviews repentant former members and leaders of the groups Living Hope and Exodus — that latter of which disbanded in 2013, and was spun off into something called Reformed Hope. Many of the film’s subjects are now openly, comfortably gay themselves. (A clip from a news show refers to them, wryly, as “ex-ex-gays.”) Their insight is therefore valuable in Stolakis’s attempt to understand the psychology of self loathing — or, just as likely, the lack of support from family and community — that might lead to the rise of these institutions. Most of the film’s subjects now seem well-adjusted and accepting of who they are, with the exception of Jeffrey McCall, a recovering trans woman, by his description, who formed Freedom March — described as a “diverse group of Jesus followers who have been delivered from LGBTQ identities.” That said, a shadow haunts the film, in the statistics about elevated rates of depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide among those who have gone through “therapy” of this kind. In the film’s most poignant moment, one ex-ex-gay leader recalls being asked by a young person how he deals with the “blood on his hands,” and he can hardly bring himself to answer. PG-13. Available on Netflix. Contains mature thematic elements, brief strong language, some sexual references and brief partial nudity. 101 minutes.

— Michael O'Sullivan

Also streaming

Based on Carter Sickels’s 2012 novel, “The Evening Hour” follows an aide at a small-town Appalachian nursing home who buys unused drugs from the residents to resell on the street. “The story does pull one along,” according to Variety, “in part because we root for ‘First Reformed’ actor [Philip] Ettinger’s sweet-natured hero to make it through intact. However, given that the plot mechanics render prison or worse inevitable for some characters, it’s too bad ‘The Evening Hour’ seems so [uninterested] in building suspense.” Unrated. Available at virtualavalon.org. 120 minutes.

The feature directorial debut of Spanish visual artist Pascual Sisto (one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” this year) “John and the Hole” tells the story of a 13-year-old (Charlie Shotwell of “Captain Fantastic”) who imprisons his parents (Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and older sister (Taissa Farmiga) in a bunker he stumbles upon in the woods near their home. IndieWire writes: “While John is certainly the enigma at the movie’s center, some of the best scenes involve the people most impacted by his scheme. There’s a morbid fascination to watching Hall (best known for playing a psychopath himself on “Dexter”) attempt to suppress his anger while John’s mother wrestles with her parental failings, and Farmiga basically just looks like a teen ticked off by the poor sanitation standards.” Unrated. Available on demand. 98 minutes.

Produced, directed by and starring Nick Cannon, “She Ball” follows the efforts of an Ingleside, Calif. man (Cannon) to save his community center by recruiting a basketball player (Melody Rae) to help him win the grand prize in a street ball tournament. The film also features appearances by Cedric the Entertainer and Marla Gibbs. Unrated. Available on demand. 100 minutes.

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