Title: Them That Follow
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage
Starring: Alice Englert, Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Coleman
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
What It Is: In a small rural town, Mara (Poulton) finds herself falling in love with Auggie (Thomas Mann) only to be arranged to wed a man she doesn’t feel anything for, nor necessarily trust. As her wedding day approaches, Mara finds her world of religious devotion and tight-nit community of extremist churchgoers (the loudest voice of which is her snake-provoking preacher father) going downhill after discovering she’s pregnant from her forbidden rendezvous with Auggie. Caught up between the two men and her faltering faith, Mara struggles to hide her condition and must decide whether she will follow the way of her people or stray and abandon everything she’s ever known.
What We Think: The point of it all is simply to prove as a drama protesting the dangerous behaviors of religious extremism, groupthink, etc. At least that’s how I see it past its function as a drama, or, “thriller” as Wikipedia protests. Seeing as it follows the suit of other films in the same vein, I wasn’t incredibly moved. The story is pretty cut and dry and proper conflict is there, it’s understandable. Perhaps it was just a tad too predictable as it boxed itself going only one way or the other (as love-triangle-heavy movies tend to do). If I was a different person with different views or whatever, maybe it would have brought more to the table, but with movies/stories with these already well-established themes such as Jugface or First Reformed (albeit, some slightly more extreme examples), this flick doesn’t cover too much more ground, nor serves as the most entertaining / “thrilling”. There might have been some moments that were interesting, but none of which I’d honestly be fond of having to watch again. If what this film seeks out to do is change someone’s perspective on the church-life, it’s not particularly outstanding in the existing pool. What it does make up for, for the most part, is its settings and photography, taking place in lived-in little houses out in pulpy forests. What almost completely compensates for it are the performances, the standouts being, of course, Coleman and Dever, who seem to shine through any script or character they’re handed. Walton Goggins is pretty solid as the seemingly grounded yet single-minded preacher.
Our Grade: C, If anything, it might be worth a watch if you need to burn some time. It looks polished, the performances are all there (Jim Gaffigan is strangely in a very small part and was hard to notice at first). In all honesty, this is yet another film that’s going to fall into that dusty bin of forgotten movies. Not as potent it wants to be but good enough as a starter movie for the filmmakers (there is definitely room to improve for their next projects going forward), this slow-paced and one-note Sundance darling is a bit of a dud.