- 07 Aug 18
Directed by Daniel Kokotajlo. Starring Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson, Molly Wright, Robert Emms, James Quinn, James Foster. 95 mins. In cinemas now
INTELLIGENT AND GRIPPING PORTRAYAL OF THREE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WOMEN
Compared to the criticism-free, almost fawning portrayal of Pope Francis in Win Wenders' Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word, writer and director Daniel Kokotajlo's portrayal of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be more different. A complex, devastating and damning indictment of the religion Kokotajlo was raised in, his intimate drama delves into how faith-based institutions can harm just as much as they heal.
Set in Oldham, Siobhan Finneran plays devout Witness and single mother Ivanna, who is constantly pulled between her relationship with her daughters and her relationship with the church. Her youngest daughter Alex (Molly Wright) is an obedient follower of Jehovah, attending services and submitting to the passionless attentions of a respected Elder (Robert Emms). But Alex is still treated as unclean due to a life-saving blood transfusion she had at birth - a procedure that contradicts the church's draconian laws about the body.
Meanwhile, Alex's older sister Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) is an independent thinker, who becomes "disfellowshipped" or excommunicated after becoming pregnant by her college boyfriend. Ivanna is dissuaded both from getting Alex the medical care she needs and from supporting Luisa, and struggles to discern what morality dictates: obeying the church or standing by her daughters.
Kokotajilo and his actresses' strength lies in restraint, and what is implied or remains unsaid creates an almost unbearable tension on intimate and institutional levels. The choice to focus on three women highlights the patriarchal powers that literally govern life-or-death decisions about women's bodies: the women's interactions are riddled with self-doubt and unexpressed pain, and Ivanna's husband is a conspicuous absence - another repressed loss.
The tight close-ups and palette of browns and beige denote intimacy and austerity, but also something rotten. An intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully acted film that questions the nature of fundamentalism and free will.