Father, I Confess (Film Review: “The Good Catholic”)

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A sincere and modest film about an earnest young priest whose rigid servitude to the life of the cloth is challenged when a headstrong woman shows up in his confessional.

 

SnapShot Plot

In The Good Catholicwe are reminded that the majority of people who have made the Lord’s work their life’s mission are in fact decent, self-sacrificing individuals to whom Service is Sacred. At least that’s the world view of the three priests featured in this small, respectful dramedy, starring Danny Glover, Zachary Spicer and the always effervescent John C. McGinley.

This Midwestern story centers on young Father Daniel (Zachary Spicer), who in some ways is a true innocent for whom the priesthood has been a single life’s ambition, never challenged by any distracting passions or interests. All in the name of Service – as well as the wishes of his late father – Daniel has made his life a kind of self imposed shelter-in-place, cocooned in the arms of the Church and the routines of the rectory. In contrast to Daniel’s ordered piety is Brother Ollie, a smoking, drinking Franciscan with an insatiable appetite for junk food and basketball.  Respected comic actor, John C. McGinley (who embraces the role of Ollie with such gusto I suspect he himself may be an ex-altar boy) single-handedly saves this little movie from becoming a Hallmark greeting card. Rounding out the triangle is Father Victor, in a somewhat thankless role for Danny Glover who, as the elder priest, must enforce the dogma of their vows while still giving spiritual guidance to his young protégé.

Wrenn Schmidt (The Americans; Person of Interest) is Jane, the young woman who rushes into a Friday evening confessional and the heart of Father Daniel. But lest you assume The Good Catholic is some kind of Thorn Birds bodice-ripper, fear not. If anything, the dynamic between Daniel and Jane would have been more credible a reason for so much spiritual soul searching if it had had a bit more heat and sexual tension. As it was, it felt as if the movie was trying so hard to be respectful of the tenets of the Church that it lost some of its causal narrative. Be that as it may, the connection Father Daniel forges with Jane becomes the catalyst that forces him to reevaluate his interior connection to God and the life to which he’s made a commitment. But despite answering a ‘calling’, it’s a matter of free will in the end, as Father Daniel must acknowledge the very real spiritual and human crossroads to which he’s arrived.

 

 

Parting Shot

Paul Shoulberg, who wrote and directed The Good Catholic apparently drew on the true story of his parents (a small-town priest and a practicing nun) when developing this film. Which may explain the movie’s modest approach to Daniel and Jane’s relationship as it blossoms into an intense friendship, with the dangers of a romantic entanglement more discussed than demonstrated. But in some ways I found this an even more convincing moral argument with which to challenge Daniel, because it’s easier to dismiss a physical attraction (in the larger scheme) than a deeper kind of calling, to one’s heart and soul.

In the end, what rings most true, and what each character must finally acknowledge is an overriding message of acceptance that is simple and unequivocal, as best expressed by Hamilton playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda from his 2016 Tony acceptance speech: “Love is Love is Love is Love is Love”.

Amen.

The Good Catholic is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4txPlzDv3wE

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