November 4, 2019  (Web Review)

Them That Follow

Lionsgate, 106 min., R, DVD: $19.99, Oct. 29

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Filmmakers Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s debut film is intrinsically interesting simply because it is set among a backwater fundamentalist sect that practices snake-handling under the leadership of a charismatic pastor named Lemuel (Walton Goggins). But the plot is essentially a hayseed soap opera. Widower Lemuel is ready to give the hand of his daughter Mara (Alice Englert) to stalwart believer Garret (Lewis Pullman), but her heart belongs to her childhood friend Augie (Thomas Mann). Unfortunately, Augie has left the congregation, and when he returns to the church in order to prove his faith in the prescribed way and convince Lemuel that Mara should become his wife, he is bitten by a snake. Although the church members—including his parents Zeke (Jim Gaffigan) and Hope (Olivia Colman)—pray for his recovery, Augie’s condition deteriorates and he begs to be taken to a hospital, an act that would instigate a police investigation of the community. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that Mara is pregnant with Augie’s child. Them That Follow presents a compelling portrait of a deeply insular world that most viewers will barely understand, let alone sympathize with, but while it features strong performances by Goggins, Colman, and Kaitlyn Dever as Mara’s friend Dilly, it’s also saddled with ponderous pacing and opaque writing. A strong optional purchase. (F. Swietek)