Sundance 2019: Them That Follow

Alice Englert and Walton Goggins appear in Them That Follow by Britt Poulton and Daniel Savage, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Julius Chiu.

From the outside looking in, the religious community that is depicted in Them That Follow could otherwise be understood to be a cult.

Mara (Alice Englert) and Dilly (Kaitlyn Dever) are friends.  They live in a snake-handling Pentecostal community run by Mara’s dad, the fiery Pastor Lemuel (Walter Goggins).  Every now and then, they go to the local convenient store where Hope (Olivia Colman) works.  Much against her dad’s dismay, Mara has an interest in Hope’s son, Augie (Thomas Mann).  Her dad would rather fix her up with Garrett (Lewis Pullman).

These relationships allow us to examine life in this community.  It’s not a community that I would live in but to each their own.  The third act displays some cringe-worthy material on screen because of Augie’s fate.  I’m warning you now especially if you have a fear of snakes.  The community pastor is so strict that rules must be followed.  If you break the rules, you will be punished.

Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage place the focus of their new film on snake handlers in Appalachia.  The focus is on one community that is falls under American Pentecostalism.  They’ve worshiped with snakes for at least a hundred years now.  Most people–myself included–will find these ideas to be very strange.  I come from a religious Jewish community so this is the perspective that I’m coming from.  We have customs that people may consider weird or strange.  The idea of allowing your children to be bitten by a snake is just preposterous.  I don’t understand how anybody could do this to their children!

Poulton and Savage focus their story on a pastor’s daughter.  It sounds like it’s a cliche but it truly is the best way to question these ideas.  By placing the focus on his daughter, she’s able to how her dad could be wrong in beliefs.  What better way to show this than by having a love triangle at the center of attention.  There’s a country song right there but I don’t know if they listen to country music.

This is another one of the Jim Gaffigan trio of films to premiere at Sundance.  Gaffigan has a smaller role than he does in Light From Light.  That said, he has a very substantial role with playing Augie’s father, Zeke.  For what it’s worth, Colman is practically unrecognizable as Hope.  The couple have strikingly different opinions when it comes to their son’s fate.  Seriously?!?  Instead of seeking medical attention, they’d rather depend on prayer to solve their issues  Take it from everyone who have ever prayed to G-d for the winning lottery tickets, you have to be able to meet halfway.

With strong performances and a cringe-worthy third act, Them That Follow displays religious extremism at its finest.

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS:  Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage
CAST:  Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Alice Englert, Jim Gaffigan, Walton Goggins, Thomas Mann, Lewis Pullman

Them That Follow held its world premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.