SXSW 2011 Film Reviews

New Jerusalem

Emerging Visions
D: R. Alverson; with Colm O'Leary, Will Oldham

The distinction between well-intentioned religious conversion and predatory religiosity depends largely on perspective. Are souls being saved or are strong personalities feeding on the emotional weaknesses of others? The second film from the writing team of Alverson and O'Leary brings together a psychically ailing Afghanistan vet and straight-talking evangelist as colleagues at a tire repair shop. While on the job the two characters explore one another's pasts and presents with jags of undercurrent-heavy dialogue and a creaky, cheerless atmosphere. Ike isn't a slack-jawed Bible-thumper, but his kindness teeters between admirable and creepy, and Sean isn't a lost lamb with post-traumatic stress looking for a shepherd, but he can take only so much loneliness. The tension of that dynamic – with the assistance of slow pacing and camera work like an unblinking eye – can be seen in Oldham's emoting eyes and O'Leary's brooding, creased face.

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