Brought up in a liberal religious home whose father is a local Pastor, Henry Gamble (Cole Doman) is a popular musicophile and podcast host, about to celebrate turning seventeen. On the evening before Henry’s birthday celebrations, his best friend and inamorato Gabe (Joe Keery), is sleeping over. Henry’s sister Autumn (Nina Ganet) has returned home from Columbian Christian School, recently broken up with her boyfriend Aaron (Tyler Ross). The family and guest Gabe, reunite the following morning with Henry’s parents Kat (Elizabeth Laidlaw) and Pastor Bob (Pat Healy) preparing breakfast and finalising the day’s activities.
Pastor Bob has invited Church staff including Rose Matthews the widower of the congregation’s former pastor. The ensemble group wonder if Rose (Meg Thalken) will bring suicidal son Ricky (Patrick Andrews), recently released from a psychiatric clinic. Rumoured to have an attraction to boys, flamboyant congregant and party attendee Larry Montgomery (Francis Guinan) dismisses Ricky’s attempted suicide due to the boy just liking pills. Larry arrives at the party with wife Bonnie (Hanna Dworkin), hormonal, sexually repressed who is obsessed with the sex trafficking industry, and their daughter Grace (Darci Nalepa), a teenager bullied into submission by her overbearing mother.
Arriving early to the celebrations is Autumn’s Wiccan friend Cheyenne (Zoe Tyson) who spies on Gabe swimming in the Gamble’s enormous swimming pool. Awkward school band musician and church member Logan (Daniel Kyri) also arrives and joins uncongenial Henry and Gabe in the pool. Contempt with merely being in the presence of Henry, Logan spends the entire day vying for his attention as more guests arrive. Early in the evening when Henry opens his birthday presents hugging and thanking his friends, the group resorts to encouraging Henry to be gracious and hug Logan too as he is dismissive, when receiving Logan’s gift. As the evening draws to a close, a series of simmering issues open the assembled opinions of one another, at Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party.
“It’s a rambunctious, often hilarious, and carefully-constructed story about a teenage boy starting to question his sexuality in the midst of his Evangelical Christian world.”
“A 17-year-old boy comes to grips with his sexuality during an emotionally charged birthday party.”
— The Hollywood Reporter
“Doman is a true find at Henry Gamble. His face (and smile) practically lights up the screen – he’s a natural and hopefully will have a very successful acting career in his future.”
— The Gay UK
Did You Know?
Writer and director Stephen Cone used a smaller pool party sequence from an unproduced screenplay as well as his own upbringing as the son of a Southern Baptist pastor to conceive Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. Cone expanded the unproduced sequence into a feature-length narrative that would take place over the course of 24 hours at one house. Creating a stew of 20 characters, the single-location would allow for a kind of pressure cooker in which teenagers and adults, both religious and secular, are forced to navigate the spiritual and the carnal. Review our Gay Themed Films Here