Even in the crowded summer, there are better indies to check out this weekend
Art house indie loves to examine rural America as though it’s a foreign culture. And for many in the audience, it is.
“Them That Follow” dives deep into isolated Appalachia and examines a tiny subset within that community. Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins) is a pastor leading a small flock of serpent handlers, a spinoff Protestant group that handles venomous snakes as a test of faith. His daughter, Mara (Alice Englert), is about to marry another parishioner named Garret (Lewis Pullman), but she’s carrying a secret.
The traditions of this mountain faith come to light, and there’s a dark underbelly. Co-writers/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage cast out a promising tale with a superb cast, but their pacing drags and some fine actors go underutilized.
“Them That Follow” has a Southern Gothic visual style reminiscent of David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (which was itself just a bit downstream of Terrence Malick). It does a good job with atmospheric visuals.The thing is, you should really be doing this: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Character actor Goggins (likely best known for TV’s “Justified” but a definite you’ll-know-him-when-you-see-him actor) shines in one of the film’s juiciest roles with a brooding intensity. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) does wonders with a role with less meat on its bones, but her presence also elevates expectations to a point that the film doesn’t deliver.
A final act piles on melodrama that lacks weight because we’re missing a connection to the characters. The oddity of this particular brand of faith, stemming from a single Bible verse interpreted as a promise to believers that snakes will not harm them, also makes it difficult to relate to this culture.
“Them That Follow” is more promising on paper, and even in the crowded summer, there are better indies to check out this weekend. Go with “The Farewell” instead.