Faults (2014)

Writer & Director: Riley Stearns
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Leland Orser.

I don’t usually talk about movie producers in my reviews because often they simply buy a film at a film festival because they believe that it has profit potential or award season opportunities. Producers nowadays either work with specific big-name people, certain properties, or have nothing to do with the movie making process in any way. But once in a while you find that there still are people who champion independent filmmaking and who have a very specific vision. This is one of those times. The people behind Faults are also those who worked on the great indie-horror/thrillers You’re Next and The Guest, which I reviewed on this site a few weeks ago. There are also people who produced the fantastic horror anthology Southbound, whose praises I sang a while ago on this blog. Add the fact that Leland Orser (Taken), the lead in this film, also appeared in The Guest, and that star Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is also a producer on the film and married to writer/director Riley Stearns (making his feature film debut in both roles), and we see that this film is a family affair, an effort curated by very few, who had a lot to lose and a lot at steak when filming, writing, producing, championing this little film. And guess what? The film is excellent. Really! A brisk 93 minutes of pure fun, thrill, and intensity that will stay with you long after the movie is over.

The film has a lot of twists and turns and is hard to explain very well. Orser plays Ansel Roth, a onetime respected author and expert on cults, who has recently fallen on very hard times. He no longer draws crowds at his speaking engagements, his most recent book is an outright failure, even more so since it was self-published, he is so down on his luck that he steals all that he can from hotel rooms and attempts to reuse coupons, much to his embarrassment. He also owes a lot of money to his agent, who is more of an extortionist than someone intent on giving him back his glory. As luck would have it, there are still a couple of people who believe in him. An elderly couple offers Ansel a generous sum if he kidnaps their daughter and deprograms her. Their daughter Claire (Winstead) has joined a cult called Faults and has stopped being the woman they know and love. Ansel, desperate for cash and still accompanied by an overinflated ego, accepts the job, kidnaps the girl, and takes her to a room in a shady motel where he begins the journey of deprogramming. Things are obviously not as simple or as straightforward as they seem.

To say anything more would be a disservice to all the brilliant ways the story unfolds. Halfway through the film I turned to my boyfriend noticing that we had yet to hear any score to the film. This is a brilliant narrative device, because the film bends genres, at times being a pitch black dark comedy which also gives way to thriller or intensely dramatic episodes. By having no music to tell us how to feel or how to read the scene, it is thus entirely up to us to interpret as we wish. Do we laugh? Do we feel afraid or nervous? The film doesn’t cue us, we are left to our own devices. Use of color throughout is also really interesting, and the choice of shots and angles is not obvious, which I always appreciate. The acting is also superior. For a movie that rests on only really two performances, both Orser and Winstead do an amazing job, never betraying the choices they’ve made for their characters. A true tour de force.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. My boyfriend declared it one of the best he’s seen in a very long time (he only said this about Moonlight this year as well), so there are now two opinions for you. Do yourself a favor the next time you find yourself in the thriller page on Netflix and click on Faults. You won’t regret it.

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