Although "Love Free or Die" boasts a vital and provocative lead subject — Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in Christendom — this diffuse documentary lacks the urgency and reach of its staunch title.
Director Macky Alston follows Robinson over the course of several key events in the New Hampshire bishop's ongoing fight for LGBT-member acceptance and equality within the U.S. Episcopal Church and, in turn, the worldwide Anglican network.
The genial Robinson is filmed visiting churchgoers in Canterbury, England during 2008's Lambeth Conference, an assembly of Anglican bishops that barred his attendance there; delivering a moving invocation at President Obama's inauguration and, later in 2009, participating in the Episcopal Convention in Anaheim where a vote passed to consecrate gay bishops and sanctify same-sex unions (in states where gay marriage is legal).
In between, we see Robinson's 2008 civil union ceremony to longtime partner Mark Andrew, meet the bishop's devoted daughters (from an early first marriage) and accepting parents, learn of death threats against Robinson and hear divergent input from other Episcopal clergy and church congregants.
Interesting, yes, but the film's lack of strong narrative structure undermines its thematic power and, at times, its clarity. Greater discussion by Robinson of LGBT issues writ large plus deeper insight into the tenets of the Episcopal Church also would have helped.
"Love Free or Die." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.