Father Stone (Matthew Urban) has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, given little time left to live. Between that and presiding over the funeral of Jim’s (Brian Rooney) young daughter, Father Stone’s faith is at an all-time low. Dane (James R. Doherty) is not doing much better, in therapy after a failed suicide attempt, contemplating another try. At the same time, Milli (Lindsay Rathert) is living a sad life, forced into prostitution by her boyfriend, who uses her drug addiction to keep her in his thrall.
The word that kept popping up in my mind while watching Michael Bachochin’s God Forgive Us was “melodramatic.” Not that the subject matter isn’t worthy of the characters feeling upset or beat down, but the actors are not afraid to give it their all, and then some. The result is a film that is engaging in its best moments, and unnatural and over-the-top in its worst.
Loss of faith and melancholy rule the day, while the audience wonders whether these characters can pull out of their tailspins but, while the film certainly delivers four character scenarios, it doesn’t always feel like there’s an overall narrative driving forward. This is more along the lines of shared themes amongst loosely connected narratives that eventually intersect at the last moment (well, sooner, but no one really knows that until the end).
Now, this is nothing new, and it’s a technique that can work, so why is it bothering me now? Mainly because you keep waiting for the individual storylines to develop more than they do, while the film hops to the next one, never really progressing until they all connect in the final act. While they spin their wheels a bit in the meantime, the aforementioned melodrama takes over and… you just want there to be more momentum. You grasp the stakes well and early enough, so you want things to progress more than the do.
I don’t know; I’m not looking to undermine the elements that the film does well, and the truth is even while I felt there was little momentum in the experience of watching the film, as I go back and dissect the individual narratives in my head, there is a progression to be found. It just doesn’t feel that way in the moment, and maybe that’s me reacting to the falseness found in the overzealous nature of many of the performances.
On the filmmaking side, the only thing that caused me grief was the volume of the sound mix; it was far too quiet, and I had to crank the volume to absorb it all. That criticism could be confined solely to the copy I viewed, however, so it may not be a far-reaching concern. Other than that, I found no fault with the filmmaking; the film edits the tales together nicely, the pace is good, the imagery is well-composed… no issues there.
In the end, I think I was turned off by too many moments of scene-chewing performance, and that is what made other narrative elements feel like they were stagnating when they weren’t. Once I started mentally checking out in that way, it was hard to jump back in or care about what the characters were going through. I think the film comes together well enough, however, but it will be a matter of taste. God Forgive Us wasn’t always for me, but I can’t deny its technical competence.
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