Combustible Celluloid
With: Henry Czerny, Mimi Kuzyk, Mark O'Brien, Mayko Nguyen, Kate Corbett, Nigel Bennett
Written by: Mark O'Brien
Directed by: Mark O'Brien
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 97
Date: 06/10/2022

The Righteous (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kicked in the Sins

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For his feature writing and directing debut, actor Mark O'Brien has chosen that most expressive of movie formats, black-and-white and widescreen. It makes The Righteous seem more profound than it perhaps really is. But it works, as its tormented ex-priest character Frederic Mason (an excellent Henry Czerny) ponders his place in the universe. Close-ups on his weathered face actually do encourage deep thoughts about faith, God, fate, etc. Frederic left the priesthood when he fell in love, late in life, with Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk). Now they live in quiet, remote house, and their relationship feels tender and genuine. However, they have just lost a daughter, adopted, we learn. The mother was a local blonde dingbat, Doris (Kate Corbett); she stops by for a visit, but can't read social cues. Then, a stranger, Aaron (O'Brien), appears in front of their house, at night, leg wounded. The Masons let him stay, but he unsettlingly manages to avoid their questions about who he is and how he got there. Rather, he winds up interrogating them, in an innocently curious way, disarming them. It seems that Aaron can look right into Frederic's soul, and before long comes an offer, and a terrible choice. The script sometimes lacks that little "snap" that would make everything come together satisfyingly, but there's enough in place that the surprises work. And the emotional and spiritual conundrum intrigue.

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