Do you hear the spirit? – Them That Follow (Edinburgh International Film Festival)

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Whether it’s a phase or not, stories about cults or religious sects have been appearing on our big screens for a while now. There is a fascination with these groups, an air of secrecy that surrounds them as well as the feeling that something is not right. When a story involving a religious group that separates itself from society and that happens to use snakes to cleanse itself of sin arrives on the film scene, you just know something bad will happen, no ominous music needed, but it helps. 

When Mara, daughter of the preacher of a close knit group finds out she’s pregnant, she spirals into self doubt. In love with Augie, a non believer and father of her unborn she instead agrees to marry Garret, faithful follower of her father’s church. She struggles with her own faith, unable to hear the spirit. Mara’s situation becomes more precarious when Hope, Augie’s mother and faithful church follower finds out about the pregnancy. 

In such a small community, it’s surprising how long Mara keeps her secret. Wearing baggey clothing and long denim skirts, the clothes of the group, does help, but an intrusive ‘medical’ examination before her wedding, something all the women apparently go through gives her away. This is just one aspect of the group or rather cult, that doesn’t feel right to the audience and especially Mara. Mara and Augie’s love is not explored past the short opening scene and a few passing comments a brief interactions but we are made to think this is a wrongful pairing.  

With a run of the mill story, characters that don’t quite shine through, except of course Olivia Colman as Hope. Her pain and anguish shines through with the little she is given, making what might have been a small role into a memorable character. Lewis Pullman as Garrat also leaves a lasting impression, going through all the emotions of the tortured and previously damaged rainbow. 

Them That Follow may fall through the cracks of the cinema as the story does feel like we’ve heard this before, for those you are who enjoy a solid secret cult on screen this will be for you.

Dir: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage

Prd: Gerard Butler, Bradley Gallo, Michael A. Helfant, Danielle Robinson, Alan Siegel

Scr: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage

Cast: Olivia Colman, Alice Englert, Walton Goggins, Lewis Pullman, Thomas Man

DoP: Brett Jutkiewicz

Music: Garth Stevenson

Country: USA

Year: 2019

Running time: 98 mins

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