Review: For ‘Them That Follow’ it’s devotion until death

Deep religious beliefs permeate an extremely small and isolated Appalachian community.  Pastor’s daughter Mara is trapped between her feelings and the expectations put upon her by her father and his followers. She is secretly pregnant. She is rightfully petrified to be found out. Blind faith and reality might just split her in two.

Olivia Colman is completely unexpected as a matron in this community. Her American accent is frighteningly good. She is nothing like you expect her character to be. She ever so slightly and quietly teeters on the brink of questioning what’s right. Jim Gaffigan plays her husband Zeke. You almost wouldn’t know he was there. He is vastly underutilized. What he does get to emote is strong. Walton Goggins as Pastor Lemuel makes your skin crawl with his piercing stare. Alice Englert as Mara is vulnerable and raw. She owns each scene she’s in and goes toe to toe with the presence of Colman and Goggins.

The film has such an ominous sense that it keeps you engrossed and totally uncomfortable as you watch.The film is shot in darkness, whether at night or overcast skies, costumes and sets are all in winter and fall browns and jewel tones. This is a story of not only religious zealots it is also quietly about the sexual awakening of a repressed young woman. Misogyny and passion clash and a sheer impending terror has a palpable effect on the audience. Something wicked this way comes.

Review: ‘THE VESSEL’ is a struggle between grief and belief.

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In Theaters September 16, 2016

Starring:

Martin Sheen (TV’s “The West Wing,” Apocalypse Now)

Lucas Quintana (Wing it, Death of an Ally)

Jacqueline Duprey (Under Suspicion, Entre Nos)

Aris Mejias (Gabi, “Incógnita”)

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Lucas Quintana; Credit: Courtesy of Outsider Pictures

When tragedy strikes, your universe can crumble. Everything you know can seem confusing or useless. Darkness takes hold. We search for the smallest meaning to turn our sadness into joy once more. In THE VESSEL, one man is burdened with being the guiding light for a small coastal town, following the sudden death of all its elementary aged children.

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Aris Mejias; Courtesy of Outsider Pictures

Martin Sheen‘s performance as a well-meaning priest is genuine and grounded as always. The Vessel was filmed in both English and Spanish, which is an incredible feat for any American actor. Once again teaming up with Terrence Malick (executive producer), the two would have the opportunity to seemingly readdress a series of meaningful conversations in Paris in 1981 in which Sheen’s Roman Catholic faith was restored. Playing our other leading man, Leo, is Lucas Quintana. His strong but never forceful presence is the perfect companion character for the audience to follow. We are 100% on his intellectual journey throughout. Both Jaqueline Duprey and Aris Mejias, as Leo’s Mother and Soraya respectively, give heart-rending performances as two women whose grief controls their daily lives and sanity.

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Lucas Quintana; Courtesy of Outsider Pictures

One thing that must be mentioned is the ethereal score of this film. It is, in itself, an entire character. The music is emotionally entrancing, at moments giving me chills. The Vessel presents a world in which religion and the supernatural collide. A town frozen in time and mourning experiences a miracle that breathes new life into its people. But disappointment leads to anger and hysteria. It’s a visually lovely film in which color plays a huge role. Bravo to director Julio Quintana for assembling a masterful piece of work.

Music, Dancing, Fireworks, Childbirth. In an unnamed coastal town somewhere in Latin America, these are just a few things that vanished from a small fishing village after a massive tidal wave crushed the local elementary school, washing forty-six children out to sea.  Father Douglas (Martin Sheen) urges the grief-stricken mothers to have more children, but they refuse, locked in a state of perpetual mourning. Until one night when a local young man slips off the pier and drowns, only to mysteriously waken three hours later.  “Could this be a sign from God?” the townspeople wonder.

Review: ‘THE CONFIRMATION’ tackles faith, family, and forgiveness.

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presents

In Select Theaters and On Demand Friday, March 18th 

The Confirmation poster

Clive Owen shines in this irresistible comedy as Walt, a down-on-his luck carpenter tasked with entertaining his eight-year-old son Anthony while Anthony’s mom (Maria Bello) and her new husband are away. But when Walt’s prized toolbox is stolen, a quiet father-and-son weekend turns into an adventure of a lifetime. Aided by an oddball drywall repairman (Patton Oswalt), Walt and Anthony go on a wildly funny search for the thieves—and find something they never imagined: a true family connection. Also featuring performances by Matthew Modine, Robert Forster, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Tim Blake Nelson.

clive owen and jeadan LieberherOn the heels of his beautiful script for Nebraska, writer/director Bob Nelson brings heart and levity to what might otherwise seem to be a mundane scenario. The estrangement of an alcoholic father and his young son is nothing new, but by adding a religious element to the mix, it makes for a funny and honest look into the innocence of a child’s mind. Clive Owen‘s portrayal of Walt is raw and real. You empathize with his struggle to do right by his son. Speaking of Anthony, St. Vincent prodigy Jaeden Lieberher is, once again, a star. His purity in presence and intention glow as a young boy thrust into religion by his Mother. Caught in between parents of opposite end spectrum, he is an old soul, yet is constantly discovering when it is okay to push social boundaries. Owen and Lieberher are a perfect pairing. Nelson’s script allows both actors to take the reins as the story progresses. Each character has the opportunity to emotionally care for the other in a truly lovely dynamic.

LOL_0537The subtlety of the film is what makes it so successful. In an era of overblown CGI fare, Bob Nelson gives us an honest to goodness family story. The Confirmation is a joy.

The Confirmation Trailer from Saban Films on Vimeo.

In Select Theaters and On Demand Friday, March 18th 

ABOUT WRITER/DIRECTOR, BOB NELSON

BOB NELSON is a screenwriter, director, and producer, whose script “Nebraska” was produced in 2013 for Paramount Pictures and directed by Alexander Payne.  The film starred Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, and Stacy Keach.  It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, and received the Best First Screenplay award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

 In 2016 Saban Films is releasing Nelson’s directorial debut from his original screenplay, The Confirmation,” starring Clive Owen, Maria Bello, Patton Oswalt, Matthew Modine, Tim Blake Nelson, Robert Forster, and Stephen Tobolowsky.

The TV pilot he wrote and executed produced for Amazon, “Highston,” has been picked up for a full season and will premiere in 2017.  It’s directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and stars Lewis Pullman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chris Parnell, and Curtis Armstrong.

Before screenwriting, Nelson was a journalist, talk radio producer, and wrote for Comedy Central, Fox Television, VH-1, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Nelson was a performer in the original Bill Nye PBS series, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and a writer and performer for “Eyes of Nye.”

In the 1990s, Nelson was a cast member, writer, director, and segment producer for the iconic Seattle sketch show, “Almost Live!” on the NBC affiliate KING-TV.  The program was named the best local program in the United States for several years and won over 100 Emmys.  Nelson received five Emmys for writing and one for performing.  Besides a two year run on Comedy Central, “Almost Live!” was twice syndicated nationally.

Nelson was born in Yankton, South Dakota and grew up in the Seattle, Washington area.  He currently lives on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, with his wife Valerie.

 

Tribeca Film Festival review: It’s easier to squirm than to understand ‘A Courtship’, but don’t be too quick to judge.

Courtship_Press_1 TribecaWe’ve all seen The Duggar Family on television. Courting is something that has a tendency to be labeled a bit kooky. No kissing, supervised “dates”, and approval needed from the head of the household (which is a man, of course). While this may seem like something right out of the dark ages, for a percentage of the population, this is an increasingly common practice in the conservative Christian faith. In Amy Kohn‘s film, A Courtship, we meet 33 year old Kelly. At 19, she was away at college when she found out her parents were getting a divorce. This caused Kelly much strife and ultimately she loses faith in the world. So Kelly moves to Michigan, becomes a devout Christian, and embarks on a journey of courtship, led by her “spiritual parents” Ron and Dawn Wright. Ron has a website called beforethekiss.com in which he shares his knowledge on courtship, selling books that help both children and parents, and even recommending a CD called How to Evaluate a Suitor. Even though Kelly had shared kisses as a teenager, since making the decision to find her husband via courting, she is saving her next first kiss for the alter. This is essentially the first rule of courting. Kissing is meant only for a husband and wife. Courtship_Press_2 TribecaRon and Dawn believe that God has called them to find Kelly a husband, which she is 110% on board with. Kelly moves in with The Wrights and Ron meets with potential young men who he thinks might be a good match for Kelly. While on Facebook, Kelly finds a young man named Ross. He lives the courtship lifestyle and truly believes that God has a plan for everything. During the course of Amy Kohn‘s year of filming, we watch Ross, Kelly, Dawn, and the rest of the Wright family interact. Kelly is girlishly hopeful that Ross is the one sent by God. On the flip side of the coin, Kelly’s actual parents, mother Linda and stepfather Bob, think that internet dating might be a better option for their daughter. They try as hard as they can to understand where Kelly is coming from. One of the most touching moments in the film comes when Bob tears up, telling Kelly that if she were to move back to Alabama near the family, he would be her advocate. It’s a beautiful foil, each family with their own faith and views on love and marriage.Courtship_Press_3 Tribeca Ultimately, after speaking with Kohn, I’ve decided that my gut reaction to this film was far too judgmental. I was certain that there was a hidden incident in Kelly’s young past, at college perhaps, that drove her to seek such extreme measures in love and faith. Amy doesn’t there is anything that she is holding back. She is lovely, passionate young woman, who wants nothing more than to be a good wife and mother. You easily fall in love with Kelly as you watch her journey. Who are we to say what is the right way to find who we’re meant to be with. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else in the process, why should courtship be labeled any crazier than “swiping to the left” or getting a quickie divorce? A Courtship is an intriguing look into a lifestyle that may not be for everyone, but definitely works for some. We wish Kelly all the best and hope that she finds true love, sooner rather than later.

Liz’s Review: ‘As Above, So Below’

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Last year I toured the Catacombs of Paris. If you are at all claustrophobic, this may not be the tour for you. They are very deep beneath the streets of Paris and not for the faint of heart. If you don’t know, they are the resting place for over 6 million bodies; skeletal remains. Check out a few pics from my trip. Read More →