The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Arrow] - THE RIGHTEOUS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Arrow] - THE RIGHTEOUS

the righteous review
A mysterious young man forces an ex-priest to confront his past sins.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Mark O’Brien

Starring: Henry Czerny, Mark O’Brien, Mimi Kuzyk, Kate Corbett, Nigel Bennett

the righteous poster

At time of writing the first trailer for the latest instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise has just hit the internet. Along with enthusiasm for Tom Cruise's age-defying endeavours, viewers are thrilled to see the return of Canadian actor Henry Czerny to the franchise. Czerny had a memorable role in the initial 1996 movie in which he managed to intimidate the movie's hero simply by speaking across a table. With The Righteous, Czerny delivers what might be a career best performance in a role that sees the table turned – this time it's Czerny who is forced to listen.

the righteous review

Czerny plays Frederick Mason, a former priest who quit the church when he fell in love with his now wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk). We meet the pair as they're in mourning for the adopted daughter they just buried. The local priest (Nigel Bennett) pleads with Frederick to return to his calling, but Frederick appears to have lost faith in a God who would enact such cruelty on he and his wife.

Frederick and Ethel retire to their home in the woods, 12 miles from the nearest town. One night Frederick hears screams and finds a young man (Mark O'Brien, also making his debut as writer and director) lying prone on his lawn with a seemingly wounded leg. Despite Ethel's protestations, Frederick takes in the young man, who reveals his name as Aaron Smith, and allows him to spend the night on the couch. That night Aaron has a surprisingly frank conversation with Frederick that gets under the older man's skin, and the next morning Frederick finds that Aaron has worked his charms on Ethel, who now insists that he stick around.

the righteous review

The Righteous is a home invasion movie made by a filmmaker with Bergman-like aspirations. At its core it's a two-hander, with all of the key scenes taking place between Aaron and Frederick. The former seems to have knowledge of secrets and sins the latter has kept hidden for many years, and it leads to him making an impossible request of the former priest.

With a heavy emphasis on dialogue, some might argue that The Righteous is better suited to the stage, but O'Brien uses enough cinematic devices to justify his use of the medium. The film is shot in beautifully stark black and white, which lends an eeriness to even the sunniest of scenes, of which there are few. Visual effects are employed to suggest a supernatural element to the story. Flashbacks treat the audience to insights cruelly withheld from the film's protagonist. It's very much an actor's directorial debut, with O'Brien giving himself a meaty role, but it's one made by an actor who clearly sees his future behind the camera.

the righteous review

For all its visual sheen, it's Czerny's now craggy face that gifts O'Brien his greatest cinematic tool. Much of the film requires Czerny to listen and try his best not to react, something that might sound easy but which anyone who has acted will tell you is quite the opposite. Cinematographer Scott McClellan shines his lights into the creases in Czerny's troubled brow like a spelunker finding his way through a dark cave, searching for the source of his unspoken psychological torment. Even the most committed atheist will be convinced that this is a man living in mortal fear of God, or something else.

The Righteous
 is on Arrow from June 10th.

2022 movie reviews