Bobby is 18 years old, lives with his loving family, goes to church, and... is gay. When his mother (Sigourney Weaver) finds out, she attempts to cure Bobby with prayers and psychiatric help.
None of it works, of course, and Bobby sinks deeper into depression and self-loathing. He finally kills himself... which causes his mother to reevaluate her beliefs about homosexuality.
- The '70s: When the story starts, actually at the very end where men have shaggy hair and there was a move from bell bottoms to straight leg.
- The '80s: Where most of the story, including Bobby's suicide takes place, there is even talk about AIDS.
- Abusive Parents: Mary, arguably (film being unique in that the film is partly from her point of view). She forces her religion down her children's throats, in particular Bobby, who she calls "sick" and "perverted" for being gay, trying to 'convert' him. Her actions drive her son to suicide. However, Mary genuinely cares for her children and begins seriously questioning her church's interpretation of Scripture after Bobby's death. In the end, she accepts that her earlier beliefs were wrong and tries to make amends.
- Given what we have seen of Bobby's very angry, mean, verbally abusive, homophobic (to the point of declaring that gay people should be genocide-ed) maternal grandmother at her birthday party and at Bobby's funeral (where she tells Mary to stop grieving and focus on the guests), it seems that Mary is also on the receiving end of this trope.
- An Aesop: Parents, telling your child that he/she is inherently sinful because he/she is gay is bad, and may drive your child to suicide.
- Based on a True Story
- Broken Pedestal: Bobby has this, his siblings joke or lament how he is "the perfect one" and this pedestal gets broken after he is revealed to be gay.
- Calling the Old Woman Out: Cousin Jeanette calls Mary out for her homophobia and for letting a minister that barely knew Bobby say a damning eulogy at his funeral.
- Cool Big Sis: Cousin Jeanette serves this role to Bobby, allowing him to move in with her in Portland and introducing him to some guys.
- Cure Your Gays: Mary Griffith's strategy, which drives her son to suicide.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Bobby falls backwards off of an overpass and in the path of a large, speeding truck. You can use your imagination as to what was the state of his body.
- Deadpan Snarker: Robert Griffith has his moments amongst his family insanity; the Reverend at the gay affirming Church also has his moments when dealing with Mary.
- Driven to Suicide: Bobby attempts suicide early on. Eventually he throws himself from a bridge into the path of truck and is instantly killed, with the aftermath of his suicide forming the main plot in the second half of the film.
- Gayngst: Bobby, on account of the fact his mother is a conservative evangelical Christian who believes being gay is a sin and won't accept her son. He eventually commits suicide.
- Gayngst-Induced Suicide: Teenage Bobby comes out and is faced with his mother's attempts to convert him, he fights against this until the church gets involved and then kills himself. The rest of the film is his mom coming to terms with his suicide and then campaigning against homophobia in the church to stop other kids killing themselves.
- Heel Realization: Mary Griffith has one after Bobby kills himself.
- Henpecked Husband: The therapist that Bobby is taken to (as part of Cure Your Gays) states that most gay men grew up in households where fathers are this trope and mothers are battle-axes. Bobby's father jokes that he had both and is straight.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Bobby.
- Parents as People: A tragic example with Robert and Mary Griffith, they love their children for sure but either have trouble really expressing that love, accepting their children for who they are, or escape to the bottle.
- Redemption Quest: Mary Griffith, who became a gay rights activist after Bobby's death.
- Suicide Is Shameful: Outright stated at Bobby's funeral by the pastor presiding over it while his parents solemnly listened. His outraged cousin called out Mary for allowing this, which she eventually comes to deeply regret and wrestle with, believing that since Bobby wasn't in his right mind at the time of his death, then God must have realized that it was a mistake and admitted him into Heaven.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Basically, all the important points in the movie were in the trailer.
- Tranquil Fury: Mary gets this towards the end when she overhears two homophobic preachers make disparaging comments about a clergyman being "limp-wristed" where she gets up and testifies on public access.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: After Bobby confides in his big brother Ed about his sexuality and begs him not to tell their devout parents, he tells them anyway out of fear that he'll harm himself over it. Sadly, the fallout from their reactions and the feelings of hurt and betrayal he experiences after the secret getting out drive him to it anyway. Ed himself deals with feelings of regret and guilt in the aftermath on top of his own grief.
- Useless Bystander Parent: Robert Griffith seems to spend more time with his beer than intervening in family matters but when Bobby's friends pick him up for a Rocky Horror screening, he seems to sit by them with an understanding grimace while Mary and Bobby argue.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Bobby pays a visit to a local gay bar in his town.