Review by Dan Skip Allen
Aside from a few exceptions, most movies about clergymen tend to be in the horror genre. Sometimes these films involve a priest who is trying to receive repentance from his past. The Righteous is another such film. The priest in this film has difficulty deciding what he should do to repent for his past sins.
Ex-priest Father Fredrick Mason (Henry Czerny) is living an idyllic life with his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk) in the country when one day, a man comes to his home. The ex-priest invites the man, Aaron (Mark O'Brien, Ready or Not, Blue Bayou), into his house. The ex-priest and this young man start to talk about things and where each of them comes from. They both soon learn that they come from a similar place and don't see eye to eye on each other's motivations.
O'Brien is also the director of this film, and he has made some interesting choices regarding how he has made this film. He filmed this movie in glorious black and white. This film looks gorgeous. These topics he chose to talk about are just that — black and white — so it makes sense that he chose this style to film in. It lends itself perfectly to this story. The music in the film is also a great choice. It's glorious and hauntingly beautiful both at the same time.
The film keeps the viewer guessing about its true direction and the characters' connections with one another. While other characters come in and out, the focus is on these two main characters and their cat and mouse game with one another. They constantly try to make specific characters make decisions that will call on their faith to see what they will do. When the true nature of one of the characters comes to light, the viewer has to decide what to think about this person.
The ex-priest is given a choice, and everything since this man entered his life has been part of that choice. The ex-priest's decision is not an easy one, but eventually, he has no choice, and it's clear to him what he must do. The young man has taken all the obstacles out of the priest's way, so he does what he wants him to do. Then he has to finally pay his penance for his crime.
Mark O'Brien has asked the viewer to go along on this ride of self-discovery with him and the characters in the film. As a man who has had my ups and down with organized religion, I can honestly say I had a hard time following along on this ride. The question that should be asked is, why does he have to make this choice? What is he supposed to gain by such a tough decision that he had to make? And how will his repentance be paid once he has made this fateful choice, one he can never return from. This film asks these questions but doesn't give the answers. The viewer must come to these conclusions for him or herself. It's too much of a burden to figure out up from down and left from right in this scenario. It leaves you with more questions than answers.
The Righteous is now streaming on ARROW.