All Saints (2017)

Reviewed
Sun. 1/7/18
All Saints (2017)
2.9166666666667
Acting
2.5
2.5/5
Morality
5
5/5
Music
2
2/5
Story
3.5
3.5/5
Visuals
2.5
2.5/5
Kernel Factor
2
2/5
Misses the Mark, but Not the Intent.
Reviewed By: Steven Siwek
Viewing Environment:
DVD or Streaming >27in
Viewing Crew:
Family
Times Watched:
1
Genre:
Drama
Payment Method:
Rental/Redbox
Review:

Is it possible for a film to be too close to real life? Well, I guess it is for me. "All Saints" is a surprise in several ways. It is a film about rethinking what church can and should be. I love its intent. It's not really my place to question a film's distribution release, but I certainly question why this film was released in theaters - it's a good renter/stream, but it's extremely niche to be released theatrically. It has a very compelling story, but it continually fell flat as I watched it.

Acting
I've heard John Corbett's voice in so many dang commercials (Applebee's and Walgreen's) that I find myself falling right into the advertising trap of associating him with brands, instead of with his character (Michael Spurlock) here. That being said, he initially does a good job of being an apathetic, likeable, and a matter-of-fact pastor. And although he earnestly struggles at times in the movie, I find his demeanor and voice to be far too consistent with his own persona. To John's credit, he is acting with a legitimate Burmese-cast who do not speak English as their primarily language - I would imagine this is a challenge for any actor as body language, acting styles, and voice tone/fluctuations can be very nuanced and just different. I like how they used the Karen as the actual cast of people working the farm, but the challenge with this was that they come across as a group who doesn't really progress. I found John's movie-wife and movie-son to be really poor performances, mostly with the script to blame. In the end, most characters comes across very one-dimensionally. The stand-out performance comes from Barry Corbin (Forrest), who has some deep dialogue with John's character, which is pretty intense and very helpful, but never leads to anything.
Morality
We've got an "interim" pastor whose job is to essentially wind-down a dying church so that a commercial building can take its place. That is the position of so many pastors in America right now, which is truly unfortunate. At the same time, this film does make you "rethink" church in a good way. If you've already questioned the necessity of the building and the millions of dollars many churches have spent and continue to spend in order to stay "open", then this film won't come as such a shock. But if you haven't, I think this film could be a good watch and create helpful dialogue in your home. The pastor (Michael) is somewhat unapologetic in his awkward work of closing down a church and sometimes he comes across robotic, but I find it to be very realistic. I would love to hear the thoughts of pastors who have had to go through a church closure and/or avoided one at the last minute. I feel like that group of people would really appreciate this film and its message. 
Music
They love the piano. There was almost no other instruments used in the Music of this film, but man, you'll hear that piano and it's somewhat loud and sudden on certain scenes. Not my favorite. 
Story
This story is truly fascinating! It's meant for a particular audience, primarily Christians who attend church, and it has a good message. My challenge with the story is that it's very real, almost too real. This sounds stupid, I know, but this story had moments where I was like, "why did they have to be so literal?" The challenge with being overly literal in a story is that you chronologically step into the next moment, instead of staying in times of challenge to help the audience grasp the gravity of the situation. Practically speaking this means the problems aren't as big as they could've been and the tension doesn't always showcase itself because a character is required to move on (as many of us do in real life). Not to mention, when you break from literal storytelling to try and be more emotional or hold on a moment, it can come across as forced. The film proves its overly-literal position when it comes to the very end. I find the ending of this movie to be somewhat unsatisfying, even though it's real.   
Visuals
You can usually tell a low-budget film when you see it, and "low-budget" is NOT bad, except when it's hurting the story. For me, the low-budget effect was obvious because most scenes were only close-ups. To my memory, we don't ever get a truly wide shot (except maybe of the field). Why would that matter? Because we never can tell where we are - context that beautifies a story is missing in this film. And the wide shots would help it to breathe better between scenes/locations. On the other hand, it's amazing that this was shot on location! However, that can be limiting when the cameras show up, since our "real life" isn't as "movie-worthy" as we might think. Some of the crop scenes seem out of sequence, but overall the rest of the film from a visual perspective is fine, nothing special. 
Kernel Factor
Some of the questions this film will bring up in households maybe aren't the questions the filmmakers would want to hear. Unfortunately I think the film does a better job focusing on the wrong questions instead of the helpful ones, but I hope I'm wrong. Based on the film I think that people may ask or comment: "How much money do bishops make? Why is a council making the decisions for this church? I hate denominations! Why are there such things as interim pastors?" INSTEAD OF..."How can we make our churches like that? Who is in our neighborhood that we can serve like that? What is the real need in our community? Who deeply resonates with our certain denominations because of important historical moments (race, gender, language)?" Church unity is briefly touched in this movie, and I think it could have been a greater focal point.

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