NATURAL SELECTION


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A dramedy about a group of people whose life choices are determined by their religious beliefs, here some vague fundamentalist church that seems to have no connection to any recognized denomination.  Unfortunately, this is also the main problem with the film.  The writer/director Robert Pickering (his novice attempt) bases his story on the assumption that the audience will buy the idea that a person’s religious beliefs are in and of themselves enough of an explanation for their actions, no matter how absurd they are (or condescendingly laughable the author tries to make them).  Sorry, but I don’t buy it.  I don’t believe that the actions dramatized here can be explained in such a lowest common denominator fashion.  Linda (Rachael Harris) is the dutiful wife whose husband Peter (Jon Gries) won’t sleep with her because she is barren.  Why?  Well, there’s this Bible verse about Onan (you know, of onanism fame).  But even religions who believe that sex should be reserved for procreation don’t go the distance that Peter does here; even his own congregation doesn’t.  So why does Peter really not want to have sex with his wife?  Hell if I know after seeing the movie; ultimately it’s a choice Peter made that is never explored.  And why does Linda put up with it?  Well, her religion tells her to, but what Pickering doesn’t tell us is why Linda chose this particular religion to belong to.  Perhaps the oddest scene here is that after twenty four years of marriage, she’s still hasn’t got the message and continues trying to seduce her husband.  That doesn’t make her empathetic; that just makes her look foolish (what do you call someone who tries to the same thing over and over again even though he keeps getting the same result).  And when she finds out her husband has been donating sperm to a fertility bank for those twenty four years (he has a stroke while…wait for it…stroking it, which sort of, kind of gives the whole game away), does she realize that her husband’s religious beliefs are a sham?  No, she doubles down.  She finds out her husband may have a son out there, so she goes off to find him.  With this the picture settles into a rather mundane, you’ve seen it all before, road movie where Linda is suppose to learn to be her own person, something painfully obvious from the beginning.  But how can you care about someone so incredibly slow on the uptake?  The actors give it all they’ve got, especially Harris.  She has one of those obligatory revelatory scenes, a monologue that’s supposed to explain everything.  It doesn’t come close to doing that, but Harris is so good you can almost convince yourself it does.  It’s not that Pickering is without talent.  He shows a lot of control over the technical aspects of the film and he is trying to create a character driven story rather than a high concept one.  But in the end, the movie never really comes together. It’s quirky and unusual and everything one wants in a non-studio film.  It just doesn’t work.

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