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The Overnighters


Peter T Chattaway
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Anthony Sacramone is interested. One of his commenters, however, says the movie is "a virtual lie" that is "anything but truly insightful."

 

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just got a screener, in anticipation of the film's Vancouver release on December 12. (I haven't checked yet to see if it's getting just the one screening or if it's staying for a few more days.) Has anyone else here seen this yet?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I am not sure what to think of the late revelations in this film, which come out of nowhere. Is the news supposed to make me question the sincerity of the preacher and his ministry up to that point? There is an earlier pointed scene of the preacher being confronted by an "overnighter" over charges of hypocrisy, but not, unless I misread that scene, the sort of hypocrisy raised in the film's concluding moments.

 

I like the idea that the film possibly just told its story and dealt with the late revelation as it occurred, but I was a little suspicious of the timing while simultaneously thinking, "Yeah, I suppose this issue could've just come up toward the end of filming." Even if it's the latter, again, I'm still not sure how to connect that to everything else seen in the film.

 

If anyone who's seen the movie wants to chime in, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ken, Steven: Care to address my questions three posts above this one? I'm worried that my question is so missed-the-point in nature that it's not worth responding to, but I'm honestly perplexed by the late turn in the story. I might rewatch the film.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ken, Steven: Care to address my questions three posts above this one? I'm worried that my question is so missed-the-point in nature that it's not worth responding to, but I'm honestly perplexed by the late turn in the story. I might rewatch the film.

Steven and I had a short back and forth about that here.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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Thanks, Evan. I remember seeing that exchange earlier. I'm not sure I like Steven's suggestion about what the last few minutes makes the film about, although I don't think he's wrong.

 

Honestly, I was thinking, while watching, that the film was about an issue, not so much a man (albeit through the eyes/perspective of one individual). The late development makes me come away thinking about a person rather than a situation, and while I've cooled toward "issue documentaries," I think the sociological issues in the film are more interesting than one man's personal demons. 

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Ken, Steven: Care to address my questions three posts above this one? I'm worried that my question is so missed-the-point in nature that it's not worth responding to, but I'm honestly perplexed by the late turn in the story. I might rewatch the film.

 

Christian, I would preface by saying that while I was a point person for distributing this film's screeners to A&F jury, I wasn't as high on the film as Steven. (I think it had an honorable mention on my list of end-of-year favorites.) So I'm perhaps not the best person to defend the film from legitimate questions about overall unity.

 

There is a scene in the middle of the film where the protagonist is dealing with inviting a sex offender into his home. The community is upset. The daughter says something to the effect that she is comfortable having him in the home because she knows/the family knows "his story." I think the late reveal pretty much forces you to go back and rethink/reprocess what you have seen before. In many ways THE OVERNIGHTERS reminds me of THE SIXTH SENSE or maybe THE CRYING GAME. There will be people who say they weren't surprised, but it's hard for me to see a reading of the film that doesn't expect/hope the audience is surprised. So what is the purpose of that surprise? Perhaps I give the filmmaker too much credit, or perhaps I am just gearing up for another long election year, but I think it is supposed to be a sucker punch of sorts, one that maybe knocks the sort of people who go through the first 3/4 of the movie smugly on the pastor's side and deriding the rest of the community for their racism/anti-Christian behavior to all of a sudden be confronted with the fact that just because someone publicly agrees with your values doesn't mean you *know* him or her. As I said with TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, the film is, on its surface, ideologically liberal and pretty negative in the way it depicts those on the opposite side of an ideological divide. And there are legitimate criticisms to be made of their attitudes and behaviors. But you know what? It's hard to side-step at the conclusion of The OVERNIGHTERS that there is/can be a spiritual/social/political arrogance on the liberal side, one that sees ends justifying means and sees oneself as somehow above the rules. That some of the concerns people raise at the conduct end up being legitimate concerns for the well being and safety of the community as a whole. Remember the pastor trespassing on the land to try to get the sleeper van back? And, of course, the twist at the end also confronts those of us who are less black and white in our political/social allegiances with questions about how much the personal realm matters to us.

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My new full review — my first on the new Decent Films! 

 

Such commitment to living the Gospel ethos is bracing and encouraging. Yet as the drama continues to unfold, at times spiraling in unexpected directions, questions arise about Reinke’s perspective and judgment. His flock dwindles, people he has reached out to are alienated, and some of them may have a point. An obnoxious reporter confronts Reinke’s on the street, and his response doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

 

Moss shapes his narrative with empathy for all parties and every point of view and a strong dramatic sense for when and how each card is laid on the table. He also has a sharp eye for striking images and makes shrewd editing choices. Remarks made in interview footage are often complemented by well-chosen shots; one could follow the story just by listening, but the images do much more than illustrate the story.


Honestly, I was thinking, while watching, that the film was about an issue, not so much a man (albeit through the eyes/perspective of one individual). The late development makes me come away thinking about a person rather than a situation, and while I've cooled toward "issue documentaries," I think the sociological issues in the film are more interesting than one man's personal demons. 

 

I think it's definitely about a situation and an issue, but it's also about more than that, and not just one man's personal demons. I think it's about self-understanding and the construction of the social self —or selves — and how the social self or selves relate to the private self. It's about the meaning of integrity, about harmony or disharmony among the various facets of the self and the implications when people acquainted with one aspect of the self are confronted with another. It's also about how disharmony among the various aspects of the selves — lack of integrity — doesn't necessarily invalidate or discredit any of them as not real. It just means that we are not as real as we would like to be or think we are.


One thing I really like about the film, as I noted in the end of my review, is how "a man whose whole life some might wish to see as a hypocritical lie is revealed as a complex but morally serious man whose contradictions don’t invalidate his commitment to his faith and his family." I think Ken is right to say that the film implies that "there is/can be a spiritual/social/political arrogance on the liberal side, one that sees ends justifying means and sees oneself as somehow above the rules," but that doesn't invalidate the moral legitimacy of his cause or his sincerity in pursuing it. Nor does the devastating revelation of the last ten minutes invalidate Reinke's commitment to his family and in particular his wife. 

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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SDG wrote:
: It just means that we are not as real as we would like to be or think we are.

 

Oh, I like this sentence.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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." I think Ken is right to say that the film implies that "there is/can be a spiritual/social/political arrogance on the liberal side, one that sees ends justifying means and sees oneself as somehow above the rules," but that doesn't invalidate the moral legitimacy of his cause or his sincerity in pursuing it. Nor does the devastating revelation of the last ten minutes invalidate Reinke's commitment to his family and in particular his wife. 

 

Agreed. 

I'm probably more focused on the uses the art work is put to then the work itself (f that makes sense), and I think it's a powerful warning to a culture that continues to and increasingly makes its moral arguments at second hand. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Anthony Sacramone (SPOILERS):

 

But something was just off about that scene. This seemed to me ludicrously cruel—especially coming from a convicted felon and sex criminal. We see Reinke pouring himself out for these guys, and I have no reason to doubt that was all factual. Yet some of them turn out to be monumentally, not only ungrateful, but even spiteful. Either something else is going on with this pastor that the cameras have not shown us, or someone who should have been thankful for the aid he was given gratis deserves a good kick in the head.

 

It becomes obvious, however, about an hour into The Overnighters that there are as many gaping holes in this story as there are the unemployed. One scene shows Reinke bawling out “Woods” for withholding information about his sex-offender status from potential employers, who find out his record any way, making it seem as if Reinke, too, is part of some cover-up. Pot meet kettle. . . .

 

Here’s my question for my readers: Why does a man who has this “secret,” which if revealed would prove devastating to his wife and children, as well as ruin his vocation in a conservative Lutheran church, invite  a film crew into his life? . . .

 

Here’s two cents toward my dime-store psychology degree, and see if you agree: Reinke wanted to make a good confession. And, American-style, in a very public way. He wanted to be rid of the cognitive dissonance between the public and the private.

 

When all is said and thought, The Overnighters  isn’t really about the “overnighters,” or the economy, or limits to community compassion, or to what degree Christian churches should be sanctuaries outside the control of the civil government, or what to do about sex offenders in your neighborhood or gay/bisexual pastors in conservative churches (in fact, absolutely nothing is said about that last topic).

 

It’s all about Jay Reinke. (And if the commenter on my original post is correct, that seems to be what was bothering Concordians long before the whole “overnighters” business began.) . . .

 

But as for The Overnighters, whose needs are really being served here? What did we, the audience, really learn that we couldn’t have intuited anyway and that was, well, any of our business in the first place?

 

There is so much information that is withheld in this thing that I did a little digging into the Williston Herald‘s online archives. Remember that sex offender Reinke allowed to stay in his home, the guy with the scare quotes in his name? Turns out that either the story he fed Reinke was a lie or Reinke himself lied . . .

 

Despite Rolling Stone‘s secular canonization of the Lutheran pastor, I don’t think Jay Reinke is any more the saint or any more the sinner than anyone in his congregation, anyone among the men he tried to help, anyone among the Williston community, anyone among us. Coram deo, we are all both outsiders and insiders, overnighters and mansion dwellers. No, Reinke’s problem was that he couldn’t live with the simul. He wanted to resolve the tension in this life. He wanted to relieve himself of the psychological burden, and in a very public way, so there would be no going back. But Christ alone is the mediator of that tension, until the Old Adam is dead in his grave once and for all.

 

In short, Reinke wanted to save himself.

 

And that never ends well.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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