Drama Fantasia Festival

Fantasia Festival Review: ‘The Righteous’ is a Psychological Thriller with a Spiritual Focus

August 27, 2021Ben MK

The nature of God and why He allows bad things to happen to good people is one of the most commonly asked questions among skeptics and non-believers. In actor-turned-director Mark O'Brien's The Righteous, however, former priest Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) finds himself struggling with the very same topic, after a hit-and-run accident claims the life of his adopted daughter.

Then, one dark evening, Frederic receives an unexpected visit from a stranger in need of help. Introducing himself as Aaron (O'Brien), the stranger claims that he was on his way to meet a friend when he sprained his ankle, so Frederic, despite the cautious objections from his devastated wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk), invites him to stay the night. Eventually, though, it becomes clear that Aaron may not be exactly who he professes to be. And as the hours become days and Aaron slowly begins to reveal the shocking and deeply disturbing motivations behind his visit, Frederic starts to realize that he and Aaron are not only connected, but that Aaron may in fact be God's reckoning made flesh — a reckoning that has finally caught up with him after some twenty years spent running from his past.

Shot entirely in black and white, The Righteous is a slow-burning cinematic two-hander that would feel equally at-home on a stage as on a screen. Nonetheless, O'Brien juggles his roles both in front of and behind the camera well. And while the result won't chill audiences to the bone, it makes for an effective psychological thriller — one that doubles as a meditation on faith, sin and the darkness that lurks within all men's hearts.

The Righteous makes its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 37 min.

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