Austin Film Festival Review: What Remains

Anne Heche's final film shows the complexity of forgiveness

Cress Williams in What Remains

Faith-based films are a fraught genre. Usually concerned with proselytizing over plot and production value, the type of movies that end up on Pure Flix are often drivel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What Remains is an example of what can happen when filmmakers tackle tough issues head on.

Premiering at this year’s Austin Film Festival, director Nathan Scoggins second feature will be remembered as one of final appearances of Anne Heche, but it’s the performance of Cress Williams (The CW's Black Lightning) that powers this story. As pastor of a small-town church, his character Marshall makes a courageous decision to show mercy on the man who killed his wife.

It’s this choice that reverberates throughout What Remains, as the lack of his testimony means Troy (Kellen Lutz) only serves a few years for his heinous crime. Instead of slinking off, he comes back and ends up being ingratiated into Marshall’s life and church.

When he can’t find a job due to his status as a felon, Troy ends up working for Marshall at the church. Why he makes this offer isn’t ever clear. Did he want to redeem Troy? Did he feel responsible for him? Did he just want to keep an eye on him?

Whatever the motivation, none of this sits well with his son, Samuel (Marcus Gladney Jr.) who can’t understand his dad’s idea of forgiveness or the presence of Troy in their lives. This animosity leads to dire consequences for all involved by film’s end. In the meantime, Samuel glowers like a typical teen while hanging out with his best friend Kaitlyn (Juliana Destefano from last year’s AFF entry Acid Test).

Heche’s Maureen is a big-city cop with all the trappings of being out of her element in rural America. Honestly, the now-departed actress looks like life has taken a toll, but even with this, she’s the best actor on the screen. Her few scenes are each compelling and remind the audience of her heyday as a Hollywood star.

Using non-linear storytelling, and the sharp eye of cinematographer Ralph Linhardt, What Remains eschews the easy answers of simple movies and takes the audience on a painful ride with a man who tries to do the right thing but can never be sure that he’s pulling it off. Real life is always more complicated than we wish it was.

What Remains, Thu., Nov. 3, 6pm Rollins Theatre at the Long Center.

Austin Film Festival, Oct. 27-Nov. 3. Details and badges at

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Austin Film Festival, AFF, AFF 2022, What Remains, Cress Williams, Anne Heche, Austin Film Festival 2022

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