Writer/director Eli Daughdrill's feature film debut Faith is a film of little moments.
Faith is an honest film. It's a film filled with big drama that never feels overly dramatic. It's a film about faith and family and tragedy and the little moments that become big moments and how those little moments and big moments change who we are.
The film stars Brian Geraghty (Big Sky, The Hurt Locker) as a man of faith who assumes that faith will always be there for him.
Until it isn't.
That moment when it isn't involves the kind of tragedy that keeps parents awake at night - the death of a child or, in this case, the suicide of a child who'd been troubled for so long that intense grief butts heads with a guilt-inducing sense of relief.
Daughdrill refuses to compromise on the intensity of this life experience. Faith is devoid of comforting laughter or soothing sentimentality. You'll have to decide for yourself if there's anything resembling redemption by film's end, however, Daughdrill immerses us in this tragedy and doesn't really let us rise until the closing credits are scrolling by nearly 86 minutes later.
An ex-evangelical shooting a non faith-based film about faith, Daughdrill has crafted an honest and revealing exploration of the cultural tapestry of faith more as social identity than as personal experience. Geraghty's Chris is a man of few words, a California farmer whose Christianity was really inherited and something he was expected to continue living into. It's not particularly surprising that when tragedy strikes, Chris's faith is challenged and he's simply unable to cope with either the tragedy or the holes that have been poked through his faith. He is married to Carol (Nora-Jane Noone, Brooklyn, The Descent), but there's an obvious disconnect and tragedy is never the time when we're willing to leap over each other's walls.
Chris's pastor (Iddo Goldberg, Peaky Blinders, Snowpiercer), says all the right things but there's a brilliant little scene when Pastor Vann arrives at Chris and Carol's home when it's obvious that even the pastor's grasp of his shoulders is too much for Chris to bear.
There's a look of repulsion on Chris that I've still been unable to shake.
I'm not sure that Daughdrill knew my own story when he sent Faith my way. Raised in a denomination commonly regarded as a cult, I'm now a minister and, yes, also a film journalist. I lost my wife to suicide and I lost my daughter to my wife's suicide.
To be honest, I hesitated to watch Faith.
Yet, I'm glad I did.
There are no histrionics to be found here, though rest assured that Faith has a wave of melancholy and emotional depth that is rare even in indie cinema. This has to be near the top of Geraghty's finest work and anyone who knows Geraghty knows that's saying an awful lot. Nora-Jane Noone is always extraordinary and that's no exception here. She finely plays the ever-present family chasm that likely long existed yet has practically become a faultline amidst such a profound tragedy. Together? These two are absolutely riveting from beginning to end.
Filmed in Daughdrill's hometown of Merced, California and even partly in his former home church, Faith is practically a must-see film for anyone who's struggled with the intangible, little moments of grief and who's struggled with a faith that is more functional than essential.
I'm not sure a functional faith is really even faith, though I suppose that's a discussion for another day.
Original music by Andi Kristins is appropriately enveloping and atmospheric. Lensing by Rich Hama intimate, at times uncomfortably but necessarily so, and constantly reminds us of just how uncomfortable we get amidst grief with the world around us. Production design by Gladys Rodriguez provides the tapestry in which we immerse ourselves.
To his credit, Daughdrill isn't here to play any sort of blame game. Iddo Goldberg's Pastor Vann is a good man of faith, though he's largely ill-equipped to handle answer the questions of a man who's just beginning to realize there are questions to be asked. Thomas Francis Murphy shines as Edgar and Daughdrill's entire ensemble is in top-notch form throughout Faith.
Faith isn't particularly an easy film to watch. It's a serious film about serious issues and Daughdrill refuses to compromise that seriousness because, in real life, life gets uncomfortable and we have to deal with it. Yet, Faith also never feels overwhelming or manipulative. It's an honest story that always feels honest with characters we come to care about and seek to understand.
Picked up by indie distributor Vertical Entertainment, Faith is now available through most streaming outlets.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic