SUNDANCE REVIEW — “Them That Follow”
This is just yeehaw Boy Erased
Them That Follow is written and directed by Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, in their directorial debuts. It stars Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Alice Englert, Jim Gaffigan, Walton Goggins, and Thomas Mann. It tells a story set inside a snake-handling church deep in Appalachia and a forbidden relationship that forces a pastor’s daughter to confront her community’s deadly tradition. Now, I had no idea that Pentecostal snake handlers where at all a thing, and while I’m not particularly interested in learning more about them, I’m very glad I saw this movie. Them That Follow is an incredibly tense, intimate, and confined drama showcasing great performances from it’s cast.
Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage are at the helm here and for the most part, they do a great job. They crafted an incredibly tense film that will have you squirming, cringing, and wincing all at once. It’s at times hard to watch and the pair do not stray from making the audience uncomfortable. For a film about religion and forbidden love, it plays out almost like a thriller. Once the film gets into the meat of it, it’s almost perfectly executed. That being said, the path it takes to get there is very rough. The first act is a mess and the pair do a very poor job establishing what the film is. I really didn’t have any idea what was going on for the first 20 minutes of the film and it wasn’t until Walton Goggins character explains what the plot was about that I caught up. It wasn’t until that conversation that the film really started either. Once it got to that conversation everything was phenomenal, but everything before it was genuinely a mess.
The somewhat star-studded cast does a great job here. Olivia Colman does a fantastic job playing a very different character here. While she isn’t necessarily playing out of type, it’s clearly something she’s never done before. She’s frustrating, but you understand her. Jim Gaffigan is brief but does a great job for the time he’s on screen and Thomas Mann has always an actor I enjoy and here is no exception. That guy is going somewhere you watch and see. Kaitlyn Denver does a great job as our lead and Walton Goggins absolutely crushes it. He is wonderful here and steals every scene he’s in. It’s one of my favorite performances of the year and I would be happy to see some awards buzz around his work here. Overall, everyone in the cast does a great job.
On a technical level, Them That Follow does a great job. The cinematography is great and we are treated to some really great compositions to look at. The editing is great, in particular, without spoiling there was a sequence near the end that’s cutting between two or three situations that was perfectly executed. The score is very nice and the sound design is great. Overall, everything is very well executed, it just doesn’t become that way until you sit through the first 20-30 minutes. While it doesn’t quite ruin the film, it’s just a shame because everything after is almost perfect. The final two acts of this film genuinely blew me away, but the first act almost put me to sleep. It’s a shame because we had a masterpiece on our hands here.
In short, Them That Follow has an incredibly rough first act, but everything that follows is remarkable. 4/5