For a brief moment when the film starts and Father Morris, Clayton Nemrow, (“The Midas Touch”) looks at you through the camera and begins a schpiel about the benefits of confession there’s a sinking feeling that you’re about to be preached at for the next ninety minutes.
Thank God (pardon the pun) that this isn’t the case. Father Morris’ connection with the camera and audience endures but he throws off the shackles of a stuffy Catholic priest in seconds. His often light-hearted humour is exactly what this film needed to avoid it becoming overly preachy or alternatively overly critical.
Surviving Confession thankfully doesn’t get bogged down in rhetoric, it easily teases out some of the loose threads that make up the fabric of religion but is also highlights, in its own humorous way, the incongruity of peoples thoughts and deeds when it comes to confession. It’s not all one sided, religion bashing though, Father Morris isn’t exactly a critic even if he is a bit of a cynic.
The two opposing forces of Father Morris and Amber, Jessica Lynn Parsons’ (“S.W.A.T (TV)”), have allowed Nathan Shane Miller (writer) to battle the argument from both sides.
Amber’s role is of course to disrupt and ask those questions that a more polite person may be careful to avoid – mostly the kind of inane stuff that fills the heads of primary schoolers.
She’s a typical, mouthy precocious teenager whose flirtatious behaviour and faux carelessness are not only an attempt to antagonise the priest but is clearly a cover for something darker – you find out what towards the end and whether or not it’s what you think depends on how depraved your mind is.
You might be thinking you need to be a Catholic to appreciate this movie but you’d be wrong, I think anyone who’s been exposed to religion of any kind would find something here, whether ultimately you’re religious or atheist. Being in the latter camp I was amused by the way is puts a spot light on some of the more obvious flaws
Nemrow plays the priest with doubts very well, he spends almost the entire movie trying to heal the spiritual wellbeing of others whilst questioning more and more his own spirituality and his role in life.
Morris’ crisis of faith is sincerely acted and the relationship between him and Amber feels so natural and true to life. Parsons keeps up her share of the acting though as well, personally I find her character quite irritating but she plays it well and the bad girl vs priest is a good, if slightly obvious, juxtaposition.
The movie itself has essentially a one room setting and it’s almost theatrical in the way it’s shot. Although there’s no action of which to speak the pacing is really good and it never gets boring.
Nemrows occasional pieces direct to camera are interesting and fun interjections that shows the difference between the calm and at peace surface priest and the distinctly less peaceful inner voice.
It might not be a film for everyone especially if you’re not interested in religion or moral dilemmas but if you’re sitting on the fence then I encourage you to give it a go.
Surviving Confession didn’t always do what was expected, which is refreshing and Father Morris doesn’t always have the answers and certainly doesn’t always get it right – priests are just people after all.