Losing Thy Religion
Chris Kavan - wrote on 10/31/19
I'm not afraid to state that there is a fine line between religion and cults and too often belief and power lead to something far more sinister. Them That Follow is based on a small but very real practice of Pentecostal Snake Handling, still practiced today. The film takes place in a small, isolated Appalachian community, where the land plays just as much a part as the actors.
This sect is ran by Lemuel (Walter Goggins) who is the main handler while also treating the Bible as the word - including having women in quite subservient roles. This includes his own daughter, Mara (Alice Englert) who is set to wed Garret (Lewis Pullman) per church tradition. But Mara has her own secrets - namely that she has been carrying on a relationship with Augie (Thomas Mann), the boy she truly loves, despite the fact he has fallen out of favor with the church. This is compounded when she finds out she is pregnant, as soon does Augie's mother, Hope (Olivia Coleman) who is in charge of the pre-wedding "examination" and finds out the innocent Mara is not as pure as she should be.
The cast also includes Kaitlyn Dever as Mara's friend, Dilly and Jim Gaffigan as Augie's father. The community is made up of outcasts and those clutching at straws for a miracle - something that Lemuel takes full advantage of as he preaches. But it is also obvious their small group wants little to do with the outside world - even going so far as to avoid medical help as well as mistrusting the law. But it's how the people react to this deeply ingrained religion - and its practices - that truly makes it feel more like a cult.
Them That Follow starts off a bit slow - but picks up about halfway through and rushes towards a harrowing conclusion. But as I said, the setting of the film - the deep forests and rushing water - are as important as the characters you follow. Filmed in part in Youngstown, Ohio, the film really does capture the awe-inspiring nature of the region. The characters themselves are quiet well-cast - longing, desperation, escape, control - each emotion is laid bare and really comes through.
It's both hard and yet readily easy to believe something like this could still happen this day and age. But as I said, there is a fine line between religion and cults - and I think plenty of people walk it every day.