Directed by Stephen Bisaccia and co-written with Gregory Hardman, a priest (Tom Martin) grapples with his experiences of faith, the past, and his ride-sharing night job in an attempt to prevent a grieving penitent’s death. Also starring: Nick Hardin, Kevin Edward Miller and Kylie Wolff.
As Acts of Contrition unfolds it soon comes across as quiet and modest, it has an honest working man style to it and considering that’s exactly what the story is about, it’s perfectly suited. Father Don (Martin) is a model example of the worldly truth that always trying to do the right thing is hard on a person, you have to ignore what you’re going through personally and give yourself to whoever may need a helping hand. Martin does a great job with the role, he feels sincere and understated, while giving the impression that there’s more below the surface that we’re not seeing, which does briefly come out but mostly stays hidden.
There are moments where the story gets an injection of drama, taking exception to the majority of the film simply following the priest day to day, leading us to learn of the grieving widower and his plans to commit suicide. These inclusions mean that the film then holds all sorts of sinister potential, especially in brief moments where the priest’s patience seems to waver, however it becomes clear that it won’t embrace those opportunities, instead it continues its path of righteousness. Though as the film enters its latter moments, we see the priest break out of his shell a little more, revealing the crisis of faith that the film has quietly been exploring.
In flashes, the film becomes slightly bleak and the inclusion of scenes of the priest playing the theremin come across as slightly strange, it’s an odd choice of instrument and it isn’t one that sends a very confident impression, it’s linked to much more outcast or unusual personas. Some of these moments make the tone slightly harder to decipher, it starts out feeling very simple and humble but it does miss out on being more constant, it’s a shame as it’s one of the few elements that it falls down on. Features like the very professionally styled credits demonstrate the thought and effort that went into the film and it shows. The same goes for the direction and score, they’re purposeful and thoughtful, instead of unnecessarily adding embellishments or glamour.
This film is one where it’s a lot more about the journey than where it’s going, it doesn’t require a strong aim or end goal, it has plenty to say along the way. That said, it does have a fairly honest message at the end, that instead of giving things up for lent, we should give to others, which is very well timed for this moment. It’s clear that a lot of care went into making this film, it comes through extremely well in its slow, thoughtful movements and its very down to earth but effective style. Tom Martin does a great job and holds your attention throughout, with modesty and takes us through his crisis of faith and internal struggle with understated depth.