Friday, 13 February 2015

REVIEW - THE OVERNIGHTERS (JESSE MOSS)


Rare for a film to challenge my prejudices, since my prejudices are aimed at prejudice itself. Having recognised for some time that the argument that all of a film's subjects happen to be male is simply not sufficient, The Overnighters may be the first film I've seen that addresses my counter-argument: why make a film featuring only men at all? The Overnighters wouldn't be too far off perfection, in truth, were it more attuned to the female voices it tellingly overlooks, but Jesse Moss' portrait of America is incisive and revealing nonetheless, possessed of a degree of genuine honesty in the real-life scenes it depicts that few documentaries achieve. Moss' camera is never intrusive but always present, a participating party as much as we might be were we in its position. Between what is said - material enough for a most satisfactory doc alone - what is implied and what is concealed, we see the true face of American masculinity, from arrogant inability to relent to common sense or the natural course of life to legitimate, deep-rooted, innate pride that even I can't critique. The Overnighters exists in a perpetual state of philosophical diplomacy, a consistent comprehension of the fact that it is the contradictions within ourselves and the complexities within our lives that make life what it is; you are thus free to take from this film whatever you wish, be it sympathy for Pastor Jay Reinke's immense considerateness, accord with his neighbours' concern or derision of the local council's obstinateness. Reinke is, himself, a microcosm of so much of what defines America, be it the nation's naivety, its hypocrisy, its stubbornness or the cordiality of this Midwestern locale. A stirring film, The Overnighters only reveals its own concealed truths at the end, when a revelation allows the film to expose its premier identity as a contemplation piece. Like many of the best documentaries, it subtly places an emphasis not on what actually happens, but on what that means. I'm still contemplating it now.