Surviving Confession Review.
Discerning and evaluating the nature of inner conflict can make for an entertaining and enlightening movie experience. Should audience members walk out of the cinema with new insight and the impulse to have a conversation, then the filmmaker has achieved their goal. However, if undertaking this investigation, and coming to a result that garners no progress from where we began, then the filmmaker has failed. After viewing “Surviving Confession” there is no beating around the bush, director Matthew Tibbenham has failed.
Surviving Confession tells the story of Father Morris (Clayton Nemrow), a conflicted and fourth wall breaking priest who has come to despise the sacrament of reconciliation. Not because he doesn’t see its importance, but because he finds it unbelievably frustrating that his parishioners repeat their sins every week. Throughout one evening in his confession room, Father Morris battles his wavering faith with a revolving cast of believers looking to confess, along with one girl who won’t leave him alone. That girl is Amber, (Jessica Lynn Parsons), a disgruntled youth who comes to confession but refuses to confess, hiding her dark past in the process.
Above all its other flaws, Nathan Shane Miller’s script is the biggest. For all its religious links and debate over the pros and cons of the church Surviving Confession has astoundingly little to say. At no stage does the film make up its mind about any of the issues it presents and provides nowhere near enough depth for us to alter any of our stances.
It plays like an overview of things we already knew but presents it like it is new-age thinking. All culminating in a severely melodramatic finale that becomes more humorous than impactful or sad. The final twist is nothing to laugh at, but it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The ending was shaping to be where the film finally clearly stated its opinion after being nothing but contradictory arguments all the way through. Instead, it is an empty and over the top ending that fails to provide closure for either characters or audience.
The performances are hot and cold, but in saying that I must highlight Nemrow and Parsons who work terrifically well together. They have a bouncy chemistry with one another that makes the concept work as best it can for small periods. Nemrow shines particularly bright and carries half the movie on his back as a result. For almost the entire film, we never leave the confessional room where Father Morris sets up at the beginning. The rest of the cast is made up of amateur actors coming in to confess their sins to Father Morris, and this doesn’t work.
They are often depicted in tight unwavering close-ups as they present their deeply unrealistic depiction of Confession. Each one falls flat, we do not know these characters enough for them to be presenting their troubles to us so passionately, and almost all of them are deeply flawed. Overall Surviving Confession is overly pessimistic for no discernible reason, and that is a big issue. Its view of the world is a cold one, and its unfunny humour fails to come close to lightening the mood.
The score manages to elevate moments above the mindless monologues that would have been happening otherwise. It becomes the only real aspect to generate any empathy in the entire endeavour. The concept alone is one that could easily have inspired many different emotions.
Father Morris wrestling with the idea that he is wasting his life could have made for a compelling movie. However, the only thought I had when the film was over was “why would someone like that ever become a priest?”. Throughout, almost every decision Father Morris makes appears to be the objectively wrong one, and certainly not one an actual priest would make. By the end, the film numbs itself from emotion and tries to claw it back missing the mark by a long way in the process.
Surviving Confession manages to say nothing about surviving or confession in any sense. Throwing the major twists all into the final sequence was a disastrous decision and resulted in throwing any overarching message out the window. Clayton Nemrow gets a platform to shine, but outside of that Surviving Confession offers very little.
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