Missionary

Film4 Frightfest 2013

 

The Church of the Latter-Day Saints is not one that gets much attention in films (Saints and Soldiers and Orgazmo aside – which is likely the only place you’ll see those two films paired!), so it being held front and centre in all information for Missionary certainly tweaked my interest. The story centres around Katherine (Dawn Olivieri), who is raising her son alone after separating from her husband and moving back to her home town. Her eye is caught by Elder Kevin Brock (Mitch Ryan) while he is going door to door, and it isn’t long before the title of the film refers to more than just Kevin’s position in his chosen faith! When estranged husband Ian (Kip Pardue) then comes back on the scene making a concerted effort with his son, Katherine wavers – but Kevin isn’t so willing to let her go…

Anthony DiBlasi shows restraint in direction letting the actors tell the story, with occasional touches such as Katherine savouring the memory of a clinch with Kevin while driving nicely done – though she maybe should have been concentrating more on the road! Being primarily a character piece, performances are crucial, and are the real strength of Missionary; acting is natural and believeable across the board. Unfortunately the flipside of that is that I found Katherine quite unsympathetic in some ways as she has quite literally made her own bed…

Wisely, the film doesn’t take the easy route of blaming the character’s behaviour on their religion – Kevin is bending the tenets and statements of his faith to suit him rather than the other way round. The portrayal of Mormonism seems fair and even-handed and while less probing into the belief structure than Trey Parker’s works gives an interesting insight into the day-to-day life of the Elders.

Missionary is a solid if unspectacular thriller in the kind of mould of Fatal Attraction, though with gender roles reversed. There’s added interest in its integration of Mormon culture seen comparatively rarely, and though it’s unlikely to be a title you’ll come back to time and again it’s worth catching once! ***

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