2021 Fantasia Film Festival Festival Coverage

2021 Fantasia Film Festival: “The Righteous”, “When I Consume You”

The Righteous

Righteous still - Henry doorwayIt takes a certain amount of boldness to attempt and channel Bergman while also starring in your own film. That’s the undertaking that Mark O’Brien has attempted with The Righteous, a film which explores ideas of justice and redemption. The Righteous is Mark O’Brien’s feature length directorial debut after directing a handful of short films and appearing in supporting roles in films such as Arrival, Bad Times at the El Royale, and Marriage Story. O’Brien’s largest role thus far has been in Ready or Not as the character of Alex. In Ready or Not, O’Brien acts alongside Henry Czerny, going on to cast him for the role of ex-priest Frederic in The Righteous.

Frederic and his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk) recently lost their daughter. It was sudden, and they are torn. Frederic, given his religious upbringing, turns to prayer as a means to cope with the loss. He wonders why his daughter was taken from him. Following the funeral, a mysterious teenage boy, Aaron (Mark O’Brien), arrives at their home at night. He’s hurt, nursing a sprained foot and says he’s lost. At first Frederic is skeptical, but in light of the death of his daughter he feels compelled to do “the right thing”. But there’s something not right about this boy. When asked where he was going, he hesitates for a conspicuous amount of time before providing a non-answer. Frederic’s grace in letting Aaron spend the night looks more and more like a bad decision, and we debate internally whether or not The Righteous will take a Funny Games-esque turn. By the next morning, Ethel is enamored with Aaron and it’s not a question of whether or not Aaron will stay the next day, but rather whether or not Aaron will leave at all.

Mark O’Brien chooses to lean in on the tension he can create through Frederic and Aaron’s interactions. There’s not too much in terms of theological exploration apart from surface level considerations, but The Righteous doesn’t hang its hat on needing to delve into these ideas in great detail. Aaron makes Frederic question his sanity, and horrifies him with his true motivation for appearing in the dark of night.

When I Consume You

When1Daphne and Wilson Shaw (Libby Ewing and Evan Dumouchel, respectively) haven’t had the easiest life. But things are looking upwards for Daphne. She quit smoking, doesn’t drink anymore, and has almost paid off her student loans. When Wilson finds the body of his sister after a gruesome murder, he is absolutely torn. She was his rock. Daphne was the more confident of the two, and her death plunges Wilson into a scary unknown.

Worse yet, Wilson finds Daphne’s diary and it mentions a stalker (MacLeod Andrews), a stalker who has been following her for years. Recently, the stalker has been emboldened and has been following her closer and closer. He knows where she lives. Wilson deduces where he can confront the stalker and does so, but is brutal to say the least. Violence in When I Consume You is visceral, the hooded stalker crippling Wilson. As Wilson heals, he imagines Daphne is with him, providing him with guidance and supporting Wilson’s journey of self-actualization. In building his strength back up to confront the stalker a second time, Wilson gains confidence, eager to exact his revenge.

Perry Blackshear’s When I Consume You carries a weightiness that is difficult to shake off following the film. Blackshear makes the character of the stalker petrifying; the stalker appears in recurring flashbacks as a pair of bright yellow eyes in a darkened closet, and speaks in a deep, burgeoning tone. Whether or not the final reveal of When I Consume You is too obvious or not is up to its audience, but I for one will be a little more self-conscious the next time I walk alone at night.

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