Movie review of “Take Me to the River”: A wonderfully confident and strange drama about a gay California teenager who tries to come out to his conservative Nebraskan relatives. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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Wonderfully confident and strange, “Take Me to the River” marks an auspicious directing debut for Matt Sobel. There’s not a stale moment in it.

Every scene, every cut, every narrative choice seems to carry a meaning all its own. Words like “uncomfortable” and “family” and “trust” are suddenly loaded.

Reminiscent at first of the French Canadian drama “Tom at the Farm” (2013), this American independent film begins as a study of culture clashes between rural and urban elements at a family reunion like no other.

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘Take Me to the River,’ with Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, Josh Hamilton, Ursula Parker. Written and directed by Matt Sobel. 84 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains profanity). SIFF Film Center.

Ryder (Logan Miller) is a gay 17-year-old California boy who has decided to come out during a visit to his conservative relatives in Nebraska. He doesn’t quite succeed. He’s upstaged by a different matter — blood has been found on a cousin’s dress — and blame falls on him.

That’s one story. About 15 minutes later, quite another story emerges, focusing on the volatile nature of Ryder’s uncle, Keith (Josh Hamilton); the injured girl, Molly (Ursula Parker); and Ryder’s worried mother, Cindy (Robin Weigert).

Almost nothing is what it seems. A scenic horse ride to a river turns sinister and possibly dangerous. An invitation to Keith’s home for dinner (and gun lessons) frightens Ryder but also becomes a test of courage. And all four fine actors at the movie’s center rise to the occasion.