With the monstrous box office success of both The Passion of the Christ and, on the family-friendly/mentally stable side of the fence, The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s safe to expect the lingering presence of overly simplified tales of Christian worth in our multiplexes for some time to come. While we await the arrival of the next meaty vision of complex moral grappling (think The Last Temptation of Christ), we’ll have to settle for Sunday-school fodder like The Last Sin Eater, which envisions a 19th-century Appalachian community as a haven of lost souls awaiting the enlightenment. While these settlers manage to rough it out in the wilderness without showing the slightest sign that they ever need a bath (only after being pummeled within an inch of his life does one character accrue some of his natural habitat’s grime), dirt runs amuck on their consciences something fierce. Enter the Sin Eater, a Ringwraith-like figure who “consumes” the guilty deeds of the deceased via pieces of food placed on their corpse before burial, symbolically freeing them of their wrongdoings by taking them into his own soul. Young Cadi (Liana Liberato) cannot bear the guilt of a past tragedy that claimed the life of her younger sister, and seeks out the titular figure in order to be free of her own sins; along the way, she meets a traveling stranger (Henry Thomas) who tells her the words of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the truth may set her free, but we, the audience, are certainly no better for it, as this tepid film is tailor-made for those already converted to the good word it so earnestly preaches, with any purported insight as to the supposed divinity of Christ coming across in ready-to-swallow capsules of nondescript enlightenment. Here, Jesus isn’t a historical or religious figure to be understood or grappled with in any significant way, just a band-aid cure-all for the already sermonizing melodrama at hand (imagine the flipside to the equally rote Saved!), which devolves into a series of ridiculous back stories and dramatic unveilings as the dramatically weightless climax ultimately arrives. Its distribution company’s tagline proclaims its output to be “films you can believe in,” but the only people who can possibly learn something from a movie like The Last Sin Eater are those who follow blindly.
- Michael Landon Jr.
- Brian Bird, Michael Landon Jr.
- Louise Fletcher, Henry Thomas, Liana Liberato, Soren Fulton, A.J. Buckley, Stewart Finlay-McLennan, Peter Wingfield, Elizabeth Lackey, Thea Rose
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