What it lacks in artfulness, Wish Me Away makes up for in emotive force. Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf's documentary about singer Chely Wright, the first country star to come out as gay, jumps around somewhat clumsily to fill in the gaps in its subject's backstory and trace the buildup to her announcement, employing interviews with Wright and her associates and offering excerpts from the singer's video diary in which she, looking exhausted from worry, confesses her fears about her ability to go through outing herself. The film tells a forceful personal story and doubles as a terrifying look at the entrenched "family values" culture that not only pervades much of the Bible Belt, but also makes the idea of an out country singer unthinkable. This conflict has long plagued Wright, and the film's power comes from the still-religious singer's belief that she succeeded in reconciling the two. Although an unwieldy structure turns the third act into a drawn-out coming-out countdown, the film's emotional payoff is real, marked by Wright's gratifying sense of relief.
Wright arranges her outing to maximum media effect.
Opens Fri., July 6 at SIFF Film Center. Not rated. 95 minutes.