A small Christian community lives in isolation on a farm, under the leadership of Edward, whom they believe to be a Prophet. We’re introduced to them at the baptism of a new member, David, as he is embraced by the community, robed in angelic white. A year later, not much has changed. This group of thirty odd people continues to live their quiet lives, spending their time loving God and their neighbours. Yet even in the midst of a loving and welcoming community, it’s hard to be sure of one’s purpose; our first encounter with David if that of a personal prayer with God, begging for a sign.
David, tasked with driving into town to pick up a new convert, heads out with Edward’s son Eamon, but when the two of them return, they find Edward on his deathbed, and we catch a glimpse of the grim reality present in some sects of Christianity when David immediately thinks to get him to a hospital, only to be rebuffed: “We’re to pray. No doctors. No hospital.” It’s the first sense of uneasiness we’re to have in this community, which before seemed perfectly peaceful.
A fluid Steadicam brings the focus on place. Not setting, but a mingling of physical place and the spiritual place of the characters. This farm is the only place we see after the first ten minutes of the film. For all intents and purposes, it is all there is to the world. It is a manifestation of the community’s isolation and togetherness. Malick-tinged compositions flushed with natural light dance through strands of grass and linger on sun drenched flowers and trees in the midst of a montage of the group’s daily routines. This natural beauty, and the almost reverent approach to it, is itself part of the routine. Overbay captures the hardened joy of a tight knit group of believers incredibly well. The easy, natural way which Christian communities slip into songs, the transforming smiles and laughter at a baptism; this is not a typical portrayal of grim, puritanical, pleasure hating Christians.
Yet with Edward’s death, the ties that bind the community begin to show their stain. In his dying breath, Edward names David as his successor, rather than his own son Eamon. Even as Overbay underplays the power dynamics between them, letting it slide into the background rather than the focus of the film, it has a profound impact upon the group. Even more than that, David declares that he has had a vision, a word from God: in thirty days, the world will end, and only their community will be saved. To prepare, he calls for a fast until the end. Chris Nelson, who plays David, is a revelation; transforming from a mild man with an earnest innocence to an increasingly gaunt figure with fire in his eyes. David seems to descend to a breaking point, but refuses to allow himself to snap as he struggles with vivid, foreboding dreams which foreshadow dangerous upheaval within their community, which David feels he must save them from. Continue reading