Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sundance with Abe: Come Sunday

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fifth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Come Sunday
Directed by Joshua Marston

Religion plays a big role in America. Due in part to the religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, there are many different strands of a number of faiths, which creates a wealth of options for Americans to go and worship. Naturally, there are differences among them, and smaller subsects of each which have variations in their practices. New trends and divisions emerge from that which exists already, yet most new developments aren’t met with welcoming arms at first, since they’re seen as a move away from that which works to something entirely unproven.

Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an evangelical bishop with a thriving congregation. Assisted by his close advisor Henry (Jason Segel) and loyal devotee Reggie (Lakeith Stanfield), and supported by a renowned mentor (Martin Sheen), Carlton delights in connecting with random people on planes or elsewhere in his travels to help them find salvation. Something in him changes when he is hopelessly distraught over the news of thousands of people being murdered in Africa, which prompts him to deliver a sermon alleging that hell doesn’t exist and people don’t necessarily need to work to be saved, earning him consternation and condemnation from those in his community.

What Pearson suggests is controversial, to be sure, but what ultimately sets him apart is that he refuses to simply take it back, instead insisting that, as has occurred throughout his life, God spoke to him. The conviction he conveys is incredible, and his faith in God never wavers despite his personal and professional livelihood being put in jeopardy. His status as an evangelist is but a mere detail, since he is a man of faith who decides to speak out for something that he believes in his heart despite all evidence to the contrary and seeks to help others by spreading that message far and wide.

Members of the cast and crew discuss the film

Ejiofor has tremendous range, impressing in films like “Kinky Boots,” “Children of Men,” and “12 Years a Slave,” and while he excels at this role, it’s hardly the most challenging or magnificent that he’s had. Stanfield, starring in multiple films at Sundance this year, is great in a muted, kindly role, and Condola Rashad makes an impression in her scenes as the preacher’s wife, who doesn’t seek to win over the congregation by conforming to the expectations of that role. This film, from director Joshua Marston, who broke out over a decade ago with “Maria Full of Grace,” is standard and decent, but doesn’t achieve much beyond adequately telling a true story on screen.


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