AKA FATHER FORGIVE ME
UK Release Date – TBA
Black comedy is a tricky element in any genre to get right, and when you have to question if a film is intended to produce a sensible chuckle or not it’s probably not good sign. The story of Father Jonathan, a Catholic priest who begins to question his faith, opens with a psychiatric patient confessing his sins. The guy thinks he’s Adolf Hitler and has drawn a crude swastika on his shirt. Is this funny? They don’t seem to be treating it seriously. But like many scenes here – and there are a lot – the random nature of it all does start to feel like a series of comedy skits from an off-the-wall TV show. Unfortunately it’s one of the most poorly written and acted shows of all time.
In a brief introduction our protagonist is set up as a ‘mobile priest’. Some library footage of a fire shows us that his church burnt to the ground and he’s using a temporary one. Of course this is so they can film all his confessional scenes inside somebody’s living room. Writing around the budget is creative I guess. However the first act is a confusing jumble. Instead of a montage showing his followers discussing their sins, several of them go on for way longer than necessary when they don’t really go anywhere. It’s a bad sign when you start wondering what the plot is this long into the running time. The awkward dialogue and clumsy editing are par for the course, including abrupt cuts in the soundtrack that indicate they used stock music … but didn’t fit the length of scenes around the samples.
A lot of other random threads are introduced including a nun who is romantically interested in Jonathan, a visit from his brother who is either cross dressing or really believes he’s Jonathan’s sister, and further scenes with hospital patients. None of these things lead anywhere which is kind of strange. There’s a group marriage discussion where a woman starts to go into labour a few minutes into their meeting, but what purpose this serves is a mystery. The only narrative through line seems to be via Madison, a widow who wants to donate to the new church construction and is obsessed with poodles. This subplot appears several times and includes some of the weirdest dialogue, including her description of one of her pets as ‘the Frank Sinatra of the dog world’. What a quote, and what a delivery. At one point she gives a photo of one to Jonathan who declares ‘I’ve always wanted this special picture’. It’s a real head scratcher and I have to say it generates a few laughs that are probably unintended.
But what of an actual storyline? What is the titular evil? For a while it seems like nothing will actually happen. But eventually Jonathan’s visiting sinners become more extreme and he decides to turn vigilante killer on those who confess serious crimes. Maybe this is the problem of having two directors, one just wanted to make a cute movie about the weird life of a priest, the other wanted to make a slasher film. Shouting ‘I’ve had enough Lord!’ he goes on a murder spree to personally send them to hell. The acting is all so bad by this point that it’s effects wear off, but they throw in some amusing inner monologue moments to keep that momentum going. He just wanted to be a karaoke star, but they drove him to kill. Seriously, Madison gives him a sequinned shirt to wear on his Neil Diamond tribute night. Why not just tell the story of a man of God who wants to be a singer?
A detective plot is thrown in at the last minute to add a little variety, but their efforts to catch him are pretty weak before they give up entirely. Pimps, drug dealers and rapists all die at his hand, not before he lightly hits them with his rosary beads and yells things like ‘die you heathen’. Perhaps somewhere in here there’s a cutting satire of organised religion, but it’s been lost forever. The general incompetence of the production is baffling as they include weird zoom shots and freeze frames as well as more stock sound effects and dramatic stings. Is there a horror comedy somewhere in here trying to get out? It’s doubtful. It’s generally just a weird slog; a mess of cack-handed ideas, mind boggling scenes and poor performances which offers only fleeting and unintended entertainment value.