The Puritans (Sean Robinson, 2012): USA
Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on Vimeo.
A young soldier, Noble (Tyler Elliot Burke), suffering from post-traumatic stress returns home to find his family transformed to 19th century style living in The Puritans. Apparently fed up with the evils of the world overbearing matriarch Joy Sutton (Eileen Kearney) spearheads a sudden and radical change to live as puritans, adopting their dress style and a reserved mannerism befitting those times.
Though it’s clear that Joy is excessively religious to begin with, her husband, Ward (Greg Seel), who has a lustful eye, seems only to be going along with it to further disguise his true nature. Daughter Prudence (Nikki Dillon) seems to accept it only in an effort to appease her mother, but has a tough time trying to get used to it, clearly uncomfortable in the restrictive clothing. Only Noble voices his objections, but he has troubling memories from the war and from his previous girlfriend Julie (Louisa Ward), and does not seem to have the strength to put up much of a fight against his domineering mother.
This is an interesting concept, faintly reminiscent of M. Night Shymalan’s The Village but clearly moving in it’s own direction, but it seems more suited to a feature length film with some of the more interesting story lines, such as Prudence’s mysterious “friend” Grace who is only spoken of but never seen and who was banished from the house, or the girlfriend, Julie, who unwittingly tempts Ward, not getting the attention they deserved. Of course, with a running time of only twenty four minutes there is only so much that can be done, however, I felt the ending was an abrupt attempt to tie up Noble’s troubles without really exploring them fully and it didn’t adequately address the family’s change which was much more interesting than Noble’s scattered flashbacks.
The acting and dialogue are uniformly well executed, and it’s competently directed by Sean Robinson, but the film’s real standout is a strikingly haunting string quartet score from Bruno Axel that heightens the drama substantially. There is obvious talent involved here and the end result is a respectable achievement, but with so many avenues to explore in this story it felt too large to be fully realized in the confines of a short film.