Vincent is a minister for a church in Portland Oregon. It’s a small church, but he is trying his best to keep it all together, and to be the best shepherd to this flock he knows how. He is assisted by fellow pastor and best friend Marcus. However, Vincent is harboring a secret that he has buried so deep even he doesn’t see it at first. That changes when his foster-sister, Krystal, shows up after having quit the theater company she is a part of. She is highly regarded by everyone there, but she has her issues as well. Krystal is a self-proclaimed hedonist and tries to live strictly in the moment but the acting has become a catalyst for some ill behavior. She runs away and reunites with Vincent after having been estranged for quite a few years. Their opposing personalities bring out volatile responses from both of them. Krystal’s behavior can almost be described as schizophrenic with voices of inadequacy screaming in her head, and Vincent finds himself having romantic fantasies for Marcus. Krystal’s madness and Vincent’s repression coupled with conservative religious dogma finds them both Escaping Freedom.
I have reviewed a number of movies that dealt with religious oppression or dogma vs sexuality. From movies that deal with Mormonism and gays with The Falls to slightly lighter approaches with the romantic comedy Brotherly Love to the extremely serious and truthful Boy Erased, this is not a subject that is foreign to me. I am gay and am a member of the United Church Of Christ, so I’m well-versed when it comes to the issue of the LGBTQ community and conservative religion. With each of the aforementioned movies, there was a resolution. We all want happy endings and each of those movies gave us that. Escaping Freedom is a very different film. This is more than just a character study. This is an in-depth psychological analysis of two very troubled people because of the baggage they carry. This film is very open-ended and does not have true closure for Vincent. To say any more would be to spoil what his character goes through, but it serves to remind us that what happens to him is playing out today with religiously minded people all over the world.
This independent film has a moderately sized cast, but the film does focus on primarily three people. Jonathan Daniel Miles plays the role of Marcus and his character is quite religiously obedient throughout most of the movie. Yet Miles teases us with something behind his eyes suggesting his own struggle. He keeps it locked down very tightly giving his performance a wonderful intensity in each scene he’s in. As Krystal, we have Kelly Godell who has the equally challenging role of being extremely manic in one scene and calm in the next. She has an improv background and she shows what she’s capable of as an actress during a powerful and healing confrontation with the director of the theater company she has left. Improvised scenes can sometimes betray themselves by feeling uneven, but she owns the scene completely and with great confidence making that moment in the movie come alive. Lastly, there is Patrick D. Green as Vincent. Green has to carry the burden that Vincent is supposed to be feeling, and in a movie that is likely shot out of order the fact that he kept that burden at just the right internal volume is amazing to watch, especially when his psychological dam breaks and all of his emotions come pouring out in a performance that can only be gut-wrenching. He even manages to show a different emotional dynamic in scenes that show the aftermath of that emotional breakdown that hints at a certain rawness.
Escaping Freedom is not necessarily a movie for the faint-hearted. Clocking in at 2 hrs 19 minutes, director Ed Blott has delivered a slow-paced film showing the painful torment that both Vincent and Krystal are going through, and how their relationships as foster-siblings both helps and hinders their issues. It might be viewed by some as a difficult movie to watch, but it raises issues that still need to be discussed. Even in a world today, where religion vs. sexuality doesn’t seem to have the same impact, Escaping Freedom proves that it’s still there. Admittedly, this movie is not my cup of tea. As I watched it I found myself disturbed by the fact that Vincent and Marcus were both trapped by their beliefs, and this is a point of view that I do not embrace. Still, that does not dismiss the work that went into this film. It’s a very thoughtful character piece that delivers some very powerful performances.
For its bravery in tackling a subject that is still divisive, I give Escaping Freedom 4 out of 5 stars.
Escaping Freedom is out today for purchase on the website Escaping Freedom – A Film by Ed Blott, on Vimeo on Demand, and Amazon (North America and United Kingdom).