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Synopsis: Set deep in the wilds of Appalachia, where believers handle death-dealing snakes to prove themselves before God, Them That Follow tells the story of a pastor’s daughter who holds a secret that threatens to tear her community apart. (IMDB)
Starring: Alice Englert, Walton Goggins, and Olivia Colman
Writers: Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage
Directors: Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage
Running Time: 98mins
The choice of family vs. faith has been featured prominently in countless films and Them That Follow was no different. The story was about a close knit Appalachian mountain community and the small subsection within in who practice a spinoff religion of Christianity utilizing snakes. Led by the charismatic Lemuel (Goggins), this group has practiced their religion while isolated from others and trying to evade the authorities. The story focused on Lemuel’s daughter Mara (Englert) as she found herself trapped in a love triangle with two young men, one a fellow parishioner named Garret (Lewis Pullman) and the other, a non-worshipper named Auggie (Thomas Mann).
In choosing between Garret and Auggie, Mara would effectively find herself with a crisis of faith. She was still devoted to her father but once her beliefs would be tested. Mara would have to choose between the life that her father perhaps wanted for her and the life she wanted. The slow burn nature of the story, focusing on many silent moments of reflection, will make it difficult for some to connect with enough to become emotionally invested in Mara. As the story progressed, other characters would find themselves at a similar crossroads but the lack of character development only lessened the impact of their decisions.
The acting was the best part of the film as it at least kept things interesting. Englert was still somewhat compelling to watch as Mara. The nuance she displays within those aforementioned moments of reflection were quite something to behold. Goggins was strong as Lemuel while providing the kind of screen presence needed to pull of the charismatic and intimidating leader. Colman (and her cute Southern-ish accent) as Auggie’s mother Hope made the most of her limited screen time with a heartbreaking performance of her own.
Overall, Them That Follow was a grounded character drama with some great performances to at least keep things interesting. The slow burning story and its characters won’t be for everyone, however, the lack of character development only lessened the impact of the tough decisions that the characters had to make. However, Olivia Colman with a southern-ish accent is always a plus.