by George Wolf
These pandemic times have given us plenty of films with small casts and minimal settings. But add in the overly talky nature of Confession, and you’ve got a film that must have been inspired by a play, right?
Actually, no, which makes its construction that much more curious.
Writer/director David Beton’s thriller plays out in real time, starting when the bleeding, gun toting Victor Strong (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer) stumbles into Father Peter’s (Colm Meaney) church with some sins to absolve.
They talk, and we start to learn a little about what brought Victor to this desperate moment. His wife was murdered years earlier and now, before Victor’s own imminent death, he needs his 18 year-old daughter to be set free with the truth of his past.
But Victor is a hunted man, and soon Willow (Clare-Hope Ashitey from Children of Men) joins the congregation with her gun, her badge, and a very different side of the story.
So far, so pretty good, as Beton’s pace makes time feel precious and the performances set effective hooks for tension and mystery. But once things start unraveling…things start unraveling.
You’ve got two versions of the truth to sort out, plus some secrets that Father Pete’s been keeping. But instead of simple flashbacks or a more ambitious Roshomon-style of reveal, Beton is content to just tell us things.
While that approach can work (see last year’s Mass), it undercuts the very nature of a visual medium. And when some of the excessive dialog is both unlikely and unnecessary (like someone saying “Come on, come on!” into a ringing phone even though they’re hiding), it chips away at the strength of your coming payoff.
Beton eventually does add a couple new faces and a weak flash of action at the finale, but by then the tension built early on has been wasted. Much like a troubled mark facing dwindling options and a ticking clock, Confession just ends up saying too much.