- Movie Rating -

The Righteous (2022)

| June 10, 2022

There is so much to love about actor Mark O’Brien’s directorial debut The Righteous, and so much a relief that a first-time filmmaker can engineer a mood piece this deliberately paced and this beautiful.  It’s a psychological drama from Canada, spare on characters and heavy on tension, and I appreciated so much of it that when it was over, I wished that it had added up to more than it did.

The movie opens with such promise that it gave me goose-bumps.  Expertly filmed in black and white by  cinematographer Scott McClellan, using crisp silhouettes of lights and creepy shadows, we first meet a priest on his knees begging The Man Upstairs for some form of absolution.  That the man is played by the wonderful Canadian actor Henry Czerny is a masterstroke.  Czerny has the most emotive face, and eyes that can play sorrow as well as menace.

He plays Frederic Mason, a priest who walked away in order to marry a woman that he fell in love with.  The couple adopted and raised their granddaughter from their absentee mother and in the wake of the child’s death, Fredric feels the wrath of a vengeful God coming down upon him.

One night, he hears a howl outside the house and, kitchen knife in hand, approaches a young man sprawled out on his front lawn who claims to have sprained his ankle.  He is, against Frederic’s better judgement, brought into the house and cared for.  Frederic has his suspicions, but his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk) is far more open to the young man named Aaron (played by O’Brien himself.  Aaron’s intentions are always up in the air.  Has he injected himself into this household for the long-con, or is there something deeper and more psychological going on.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be the latter, and when I discovered that the young man’s presence had more to do with Frederic’s pleading prayer at the film’s opening, I knew that O’Brien’s script was heaping much more of a burden then his story could bear.  And it is.  At about the midpoint, Aaron issues a devil’s bargain to Frederic that ups the stakes in their already tense relationship.  The climax, however, I found a little muddled.

And yet, while I think the back-half of the movie is a let-down, I can’t deny that O’Brien has crafted his film with skill and beauty.  This is a film that builds mood and tension and suspense out of the characters, out of the crucible of tragedy that Frederic and Ethel are forced to bear.  What Aaron represents is the oncoming of reckoning that he must face.  It’s a patient narrative that I found engrossing.  I just wish that the film’s latter half was as compelling as the first.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Horror