Riley Stearns who is probably best know for his short film The Cub tries his hand at a full feature for the first time with Faults a film that shares some of the shorts' irony and themes. Religious Cults have been the focus of many films over the years; Ttwo recent examples were Martha Marcy May Marlene from 2011 and 2012's The Master. A very powerful older Canadian film from the 80's Ticket to Heaven features similar acts of kidnapping and deprogramming that occurs in Faults.
In the opening frames we meet Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) a formerly renewed expert on cults that has fallen on bad times. In his introduction he is caught reusing a voucher for a complimentary meal from the hotel that booked him to speak about religious cults. At the meeting Roth is approached by a father (Chris Ellis) and mother (Beth Grant) who want Roth to help them get their daughter Clair
(Mary Elizabeth Windstead) back who ran off and joined a little know cult called Faults.
Over the final two thirds of the film Stearns explores a claustrophobic relationship between two people in very tight quarters. The pair spar back and forth switching dominant and submissive roles as each tries to gain the upper hand throughout the piece. The two lead actors excel at their parts clearly not limited by the cramped main setting of a single motel room.
Roth begins his work with an attempt to lean more about the cult. Claire does not want him to use her given name but other than that is very accommodating to her abductor/ helper. The first signed that Roth may not be in char is Claire's foreboding response to being asked her age; she replies Do not ask questions to which you already know the answer. Sterns takes a writing credit as well for the film that gives a lot for the two lead actors to do.
The psychological battle during the piece is central to the production. Stearn's writing highlights many different aspects of Windstead's thespian skills. Character actor Leland Orser embraces the chance to play a lead role as the has been expert Roth. Orser flips from cheap, to hoarder, on to authoritarian then submissive as the reels roll along. The small supporting cast do not make a wrong step in the film. Chirs Ellis is forceful as Claire's dad while Beth Grant is the complete opposite as mother Evelyn. Look for Lance Reddick of Fringe and The Wire fame as the muscle, looking to recover for Roth's ex-agent the advance for our protagonists latest failed book.
Faults is a strong well written debut film from director Riley Stearns. The two main actors shine on the screen supported by a rich script that forces the audience to so some heavy lifting that offers great rewards in the end. The small cast excel in their roles as the frugal production use every corner of its restricted space to produce a very watchable film.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Faults | Riley Stearns | U.S.A. | 2014 | 89 Minutes.
Tags: Religious Cult, Kidnapping, Deprograming, Agent, Brainwash, Mind Control, Belief, Divorce, Seminar, Motel Room, Book Deal.