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Apostasy Review

Following on from our recent Apostasy preview and Q&A session in late July, Curzon’s Regional Marketing Intern Dan Beesley shares his take on Daniel Kokotajlo’s Manchester-shot debut feature…

Independent British drama has seen somewhat of a recent resurgence. We had the brilliant Lady Macbeth in 2016 and God’s Own Country in 2017; and now we have what is surely to be the most talked-about British drama of this year in Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy. The film is likely to play very well across the whole British arthouse circuit, but with its local cast and recognisable Greater Manchester filming locations it’s particularly special to us here at HOME.

Based on the director’s own childhood experiences as a former Jehovah’s Witness, Apostasy centers around Luisa (Sacha Parkinson), a young woman who has begun to have doubts about her family’s strict loyalty to Jehovah and causes a tense rift when she becomes pregnant out of wedlock with a boy from college. Much of the story is told from the point of view of Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran, of Happy Valley fame), Luisa’s mother who is pressured into shunning her non-believing daughter, and Alex (Molly Wright), the younger sister who is conflicted between her mother’s devout loyalty to the faith and her sister’s increasing doubts and independence.

Depicting social realism in the way British cinema is renowned for, the film is very minimalist and muted in its production – the locales of Oldham are presented in a very dull and gray tone, locations are generally small and tight, and even the acting is much more restrained than you would expect. The fantastic performances of the three female leads convey intense emotion even with only slight facial movements, meaning that the film still manages to be very powerful despite its deliberately basic style. There are several long stretches of silence in which the audience is invited to analyse the characters’ emotions based on the slight physical cues given by the actresses, and this is just one of the reasons why the film is going to be causing much discussion after screenings.

The best films are the ones that leave you thinking, leave you wanting to study the film’s background more, and leave you eagerly wanting to discuss the film with your fellow audience. Apostasy is a brilliant example of a film that ticks all three boxes, presenting its extremely complex and touchy subject matter in a very balanced and fair way that opens up room for debate and conversation. Although it could have very easily ended up coming across as an attack on the Jehovah’s Witness faith, Kokotajlo’s script makes a point of explaining the Witness point-of-view and the reasons why a Witness may put their faith before their family. With the film being a PG certificate, it is also a great film for starting discussion on religion and family between parents and children, and it’s very likely to become a talking point in school screenings for many years to come.

Amidst a very busy time for independent and arthouse cinemas, Apostasy will manage to stand out from the crowd as a truly unique and thought-provoking British debut and with a lasting impact that will see it on many end-of-year best lists.

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