Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Mark O'Brien.
Starring Henry Czerny, Mark O'Brien, Mimi Kuzyk, Mayko Nguyen, Nigel Bennett, Kate Corbett.
Horror/Drama, Canada, 95 mins, cert 15.

Released in the UK on Blu-ray via Arrow Video on 18th July 2022.


Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) is a former priest who left the priesthood so he and his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk) could raise their adopted daughter, but after the young girl’s death Frederic and Ethel have been consumed by grief, with Frederic experiencing a loss of faith. After Frederic’s former boss fails to convince him to rejoin the church now he does not have a child, the grieving couple are visited by an injured young man named Aaron (Mark O’Brien) asking for help. Taking him in, Ethel is convinced that Aaron has been sent to them by God but Frederic is a bit more suspicious, and as Aaron’s reasons for turning up at the Mason’s home become clearer, Frederic’s crisis of faith becomes the driving force as he is forced to question what he believes in the most extreme way.


Primarily an actor, and having directed several shorts, Mark O’Brien has stamped his debut directorial feature in a similar way to how Robert Eggers announced himself as a genre voice a few years back with THE WITCH. Not that THE RIGHTEOUS is stylistically or thematically similar to THE WITCH but both movies approach their subject matter with possibly more artistic flair and, for use of a better word, depth than the material sometimes warrants, and that isn’t a slight on the story or what it is trying to achieve but in different hands this – like THE WITCH – would have been a very different movie.


At the core of it is the connection between Frederic and Aaron, which is drip-fed in bits and pieces until its final reveal, and whilst it maybe could have used another pass through the writer’s room to smooth out some of the vaguer details that could easily be missed if you are not paying full attention, the performances by the two leads are strong enough to carry some of the less obvious details through. Henry Czerny gives a wonderfully complex performance as Frederic, despite looking a little bit like Dermot Morgan which means that Frederic resembles Father Ted when he goes into religious mode and taking away a some of the sombreness (and once you see it, that theme tune will play in your head), but his interplay with Mark O’Brien when they have their exchanges is absolute gold. O’Brien has written Aaron to be as complicated a character as Frederic, being feeble and childlike one minute, and devious and charismatic the next, and the textures the actor gives to the role are fascinating to watch as the small details that Aaron gives to Frederic change the course of the story.


But as well as the cast and their performances, the main star of the show is the gorgeous black-and-white photography courtesy of Scott McClellan, whose eye for lighting and framing makes sure that every shot is immaculate, implying something sinister with the use of shadow in a way that evokes Charles Laughton’s THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, albeit a little less expressionist. Andrew Staniland ‘s minimalist score also adds the necessary bumps and creaks to create an uneasy atmosphere, even when not very much is actually happening.


Overall, THE RIGHTEOUS is a movie that will probably divide people as it is a slow-burning black-and-white character piece about grief, faith and loss that the poster and the basic premise of the plot don’t really do justice to. However, stick with it and it is a movie that will get under your skin if you let it, possibly sending your mind to some dark places with its grim subject matter, but also showcasing a filmmaker with a unique voice and the means to capture his ambition on the screen. It will certainly be interesting to see where he goes from here.


Chris Ward.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans