The Overnighters

The Overnighters

2014, PG-13, 90 min. Directed by Jesse Moss.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 17, 2014

A social-justice documentary that packs a visceral emotional wallop to the heart and mind, The Overnighters could scarcely be more relevant to our stressy, fearful present. Moss trains his one-man film crew on a tiny patch of combustible Americana, namely the economically bedeviled town of Williston, N.D., which is seeing a huge – and unwanted – increase in population thanks to the regional boom in oil fracking. Of the thousands of men who have traveled from virtually all points on the restless American map, Moss follows the heartrending downward spirals of a handful, but finds his film’s focus by centering on avuncular Lutheran pastor Jay Reinke. A family man who (refreshingly) takes the Christian mandate to care for one’s fellow man by turning his small church into a blessed sort of bed-and-breakfast shelter for the flood of “overnighters.” As a portrait of one good man attempting to do right by his faith, this is a compelling piece of filmmaking. As a distillation of many of the problems facing communities all over the country, it’s downright laudable.

Driven and purposeful yet harried and harassed, Pastor Reinke is a fascinating figure beset on all sides. Williston’s City Council is threatening to ban his program for the homeless, the church elders are none too pleased with the men (and they’re nearly all men) crashed out on the pews and floors, and his wife and children are clearly not getting enough dad time. Still, he perseveres, even going so far as to bring a registered sex offender into his own home. But is it enough to offer hope and compassion while all around you outrageous fortune piles woe after woe at your doorstep?

A third-act revelation will knock viewers silly and cause them to reevaluate everything that’s come before, but even without that jaw-dropping information, Moss’ film is a righteous piece of empathetic, of-the-moment documentary filmmaking.

The Overnighters plays at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline Friday, Oct 31-Sunday, Nov. 2.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jesse Moss
Burt Reynolds and <i>The Bandit</i>
Burt Reynolds and The Bandit
Doc chronicles the making of a classic

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 5, 2016

Demolition Man
Demolition Man
Documentarian Jesse Moss on 'Speedo'

Shawn Badgley, Nov. 28, 2003

More Jesse Moss Films

Feb. 17, 2019

More by Marc Savlov
Cold Pursuit
Liam Neeson is Mr. Plow ... with a vengeance

Feb. 15, 2019

2019 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary
Tales of love and hate dominate these Oscar hopefuls

Feb. 8, 2019


The Overnighters, Jesse Moss

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle