Grief and guilt manifests itself in some pretty intense ways…
The Righteous is quite simply a visually stunning and emotionally engaging look at the self-imposed mechanisms of grief and guilt that can haunt us and manifest themselves in ways we can’t even begin to understand.
This film tells the story of Frederic (Henry Czerny) a grieving man struggling with his faith, who helps an injured young man, Aaron Smith (Mark O’Brien) who stumbles onto his property one night, claiming to be lost in the woods. Frederic and his wife (Mimi Kuzyk) invite the man to stay for the night, but Frederic soon begins to have doubts about this enigmatic stranger’s story – and his motives for being there. When Aaron asks Frederic to commit an unspeakable deed, it becomes clear that the man is not who he seems, and has been sent to test the very limits of Frederic’s existence.
To put it quite simply; The Righteous is easily one of the best independent films that you’ll see this year and a stalwart example of the strength of Canadian filmmaking.
During this day and age, it’s not hard to ‘scare’ audiences, but when you get them genuinely unsettled and haunted by what they’ve just seen, that’s the mark of a genuinely talented storyteller.
In his first feature effort, writer/director (and star) Mark O’Brien takes years of study at the feet of the masters; some of whom he’s worked with as an actor and put it to good use.
The Righteous actually has something to SAY and it does so impeccably tackling the ideas and social constructs around grief and guilt and molds them into a horror movie.
Set up almost like a chamber piece or a small play; The Righteous crafts its mood through some stellar black and white photography and some very careful lighting throughout the film. On a two colour pallet we get a canvas that takes us through the spectrum of ideas that this film has to offer. The script is whip smart as it tackles some complicated issues inside the constructs of modern religion and operates with real subtlety as we see the actors in this film tear into the rich dialogue like it was written by David Mamet or even Shakespeare himself.
Even as he’s in the bulk of the films scenes, O’Brien never feels like he’s over directing anything and allows the electric duo of Henry Czerny and Mimi Kuzyk embody this couple who have lost the most precious thing in their lives, only to realize that they can lose even more. Both these veteran actors are simply effortless as they explore the rich material at hand and truly make us believe that they are on the brink as they are lost in the sea of grief.
If I personally hadn’t already interviewed him three times now, I wouldn’t know that the flashes of sociopathy that he presents us with his character weren’t just him being a fantastic actor. With his obvious knowledge of the material, he drives this emotional bus right off the cliff where it needs to be as he’s bringing down these two people that he ‘stumbled’ upon with him. This would be a career defining performance even if O’Brien hadn’t written/directed and produced this thing…but because he did it’s that much more impressive.
What The Righteous has done is a genuine rarity in the realms of storytelling. It’s tackling hard issues that come up in and around faith, religion and even the human condition itself without landing firmly on one side or another. This film isn’t giving us answers to anything, rather its asking us to look inward and start ask some genuinely honest questions of ourselves. That’s what makes it a genuinely terrifying experience that needs to be seen on the big screen.
Also don’t forget to check out our interview with writer/director/star Mark O’Brien right below…