Them That Follow
Far from a great film, Them That Follow will nonetheless go down as a showcase of great faces and a testament to the greatness of Olivia Colman and Walton Goggins as do-it-all performers.
The Applachian-set tale of a small religious community whose members handle rattlesnakes to test their faith serves up occasional top-notch suspense courtesy of the serpents, but one never, well, believes that the featured characters fully buy into the extremism of their pastor Lemuel (Goggins, eerily natural in full-fledged evangelical mode).
Without that strong conviction, the competently-shot feature debut of writer/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage limits itself on an emotional level, particularly in the relationship between Lemuel’s daughter Mara (Alice Englert, Beautiful Creatures) and Augie (Thomas Mann, Kong: Skull Island), on which much of the drama hinges.
The care Mara shows for Augie seems more circumstantial than a sign of true love, and is far outshined by her quasi-arranged fiancé Garret (Lewis Pullman, Bad Times at the El Royale), whose paranoia of and jealousy toward Augie’s relationship is far more compelling and believable.
Each actor ably uses his or her distinct facial features to convey the feelings that define their characters, none better than Englert and Olivia Colman, whose expressions as Augie’s born-again mother Hope (good name!) wordlessly show her grasp of the events around her, as well as her judgment of them.
But in this promising yet half-formed milieu, its inhabitants’ struggles and triumphs merely hit with the intensity of a mosquito bite, not a rattler’s fang. Barely rated R, it’s likewise appropriate that Them That Follow is barely a movie — more a good idea with a stellar cast in need of developed concepts.
Grade: C-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: 1091 Media)