Written and directed by Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer, following the campaign that led to a pivotal yet largely unknown moment in the struggle for LGBT equality: the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Starring: Harry Adamson, Gary Alinder, Irving Bieber, Robert Campbell, Sally Duplaix, John Fryer, Ronald Gold and Richard Socarides.
When you think of the treatment of gay people in 1960s America, minds likely go to the general rampant homophobia and physical attacks, not to the horrific treatments and institutionalisation in attempts to ‘cure’ homosexuality. There are likely many who aren’t even aware that for years being gay in America was legally considered a mental illness, this film will open your eyes to the perception authorities put forth demonising homosexuals and putting their lives at risk. Although anyone who caught Nurse Ratched on Netflix, will be aware that one of the methods used as a so-called cure, was a lobotomy, which is a relentlessly terrifying reality.
However, don’t be deterred, while the film may start out highlighting and reminding of the horrific state of society in that time, its intention and atmosphere becomes a much more positive one as time goes on. The real message of this film is about working for change, about standing up for your rights and pushing back against homophobia. It’s a great example to show how much work goes into progress, it’s not simply a matter of opinions changing over time or people becoming less close-minded, it’s achieved by people banding together and speaking up. It’s also full of inspiring and fascinating personal stories from those interviewed, including a gay man whose own father was a key component of trying to retain homosexuality as a mental illness.
At times it does feel as though it could have gone further, starting out on such an impactful note exploring the horrific treatment, with one experience even described by an interviewee as “like a horror movie”, but it doesn’t continue that atmosphere throughout. There’s undeniably a great message about the importance of activism and continuing to refuse to let other people tell you who you are but it felt like it was missing a more consistent emotional note. It would have been great to also delve a little deeper into those personal stories it explores. Although, it does feature some great direction and editing that give the film a very linear progression that keeps things moving at a good pace and never loses your attention.
Cured explores the horrifying reality of being gay in America in the 1960s, it doesn’t ignore that there’s still progress to be made but that it can’t be achieved without hard work. The disturbing reminders of how shock therapy and lobotomies were used as ‘cures’ for homosexuality, re-iterates how baffling it is that almost 60 years later, conversion therapy still exists and is legal in many parts of the world, including the UK. This film perfectly captures how change happens, it isn’t by accident, it’s by banding together and standing up against injustice and prejudice.