By Phil Hall | October 15, 2012

Films that offer an unapologetic view of atheism require a significant degree of tact in order to successfully sell their message. Australian filmmaker Craig Foster tackles this thorny subject with an uncommon degree of subtlety in this short drama, which offers an unapologetic yet sympathetic view of an atheist’s beliefs.

“Parrot” focuses on a family that is divided by faith. The parents are devout Roman Catholics, while their young adult sons go through the motions of observing the faith while secretly scorning the tenets and protocols of their religious upbringing. When one of the sons is killed in an automobile crash, the surviving brother openly states his rejection of the family faith. The resulting conflict forces the family to find a new common ground during their period of shared grief.

Foster, who co-wrote the screenplay with Emma McKenna, handles a very difficult subject with maturity and intelligence. The film’s production values are top-notch, and the ensemble – Gig Clarke and Anthony Slater as the brothers, Barry Shepherd and Fiona Press as the parents – bring sincerity and depth to their performances.

In the end, “Parrot” wisely avoids making judgment calls on its theological subject. Instead, it deftly moves beyond the burdens of dogma (both the religious and nonreligious types) to consider the impact of love, loss and self-identity. The resulting effort is a provocative and genuinely heartbreaking achievement.

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