Huh. Not at all what I was expecting, but then I was expecting a great movie. It looks like it should be wonderful, stacked as it is with such talent and set in 1850s Appalachia. But as someone of Celtic descent and a devout Christian, I found the simplistic narrative deeply flawed with a plot hole large enough for a 747 to fly through. Netflix nailed the description when they say this movie is ‘sentimental’, as this is a very self-indulgent script that probably will have more appeal to a very young audience. Considering it is directed by Michael Landon Jr, the tone of Little House on the Prairie is inevitable but a bit banal and speaking of banal, how insulting is it to say Welsh immigrants would revert to semi-pagan beliefs and mysteriously forget the basic tenets of Christianity? The story follows young Cadi as she struggles with the aftermath of a family tragedy and witnesses the Sin eater coming to absolve the recently deceased of their sins. She hesitantly discusses what she saw with a traveling preacher and their conversations comprise the ‘Come to Jesus’ plot. I really did enjoy that storyline and was genuinely moved by a lot of what the preacher said.
The medieval concept of the Sin Eater is an interesting one but is totally misconstrued in this film. Peter Wingfield, who portrays the darkly mystical Sin Eater, is one of my favorite underrated actors and his piercing blue eyes imbue his character with such visible anguish and arcane knowledge. Cadi, burdened by guilt and sadness, cautiously tries to befriend the Sin Eater in hopes he might relieve her of her sins. Wingfield gives a superlative performance as the mysterious and reviled outcast, a figure of fear but also of sympathy as evidenced by his covert relationship with another shunned character, a woman who chooses to live apart from the community. (You might notice the oblique Highlander reference with him and Miss McLeod.) Louise Fletcher is lovely as Miz Elda, a kindly soul who always has time for children and who seems to keep many secrets. I like the music, the sets, the costumes and the acting, plus some elements of the story, but thought the dark “secret” driving the plot was ridiculously simple. I do think it does a great job portraying the all-consuming guilt undermining the relationship between Cadi and her mother, the innocent friendship between Cadi and Fagan as well as the deeply human need for forgiveness and absolution. I can’t say I really disliked the movie but I did feel let down by the pedantic “message” that felt very, very forced. – BETHANY
For more information on people who have been in much better productions than this, visit IMDB – The Last Sin Eater
For more on the book on which this movie is based, visit: Good Reads – The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
Liana Liberato as Cadi Forbes.
Fagan Kai, (Soren Fulton) with an unfortunate critter.
Cadi and Fagan contemplate the universe.
The first glimpse of the Sin Eater. I defy you not to be moved by those eyes.
Henry Thomas as the simply described ‘Man of God’.
This little girl (Thea Rose) may or may not be real.
The forbidden river, which plays an important role in the film.
Cadi seeks help from the Sin Eater.
Cadi seeks help from the Man of God.
The tortured Sin Eater has a serious case of self-loathing and is reluctant to show his face.
But why would you want to hide a face like this?
The only photo I could find of the Sin Eater’s costume, but he’s never shown in broad daylight, rather in darkness and shadows.
I couldn’t find a picture of Louise Fletcher in her role as Miz Elda, so here’s one of just the actress. (image found at pdxretro.com)
Photos courtesy of Believe Pictures, Fox Faith, The Bigger Picture and 20th Century Fox (unless otherwise noted)