A film whose very quietness seems to speak volumes, Joshua Overbay’s coolly mesmerizing “As It Is In Heaven” immerses us in the life of a religious cult whose members believe that the end of days is imminent. We don’t know how this group of a dozen or so came to live together in a big, painfully tidy old house far from a main road somewhere in the American South; here and there, a framed photograph or a stray gaze hints at a previous, different life.
With beatific smiles, the group does chores, baptizes new members in the river (all clad in white robes), prays together in the living room. “We are the chosen people!” says their leader, the Prophet (John Lina), beaming with charismatic joy as he moves among his followers, touching each, and you can see how a lost soul would be drawn to such assurance. But, early in the film, the Prophet dies, and the group’s new leader, a pale young man named David (Chris Nelson), announces that their days on Earth are numbered — that they will soon know heaven.
Written with less-is-more simplicity by Ginny Lee Overbay, “As It Is In Heaven” grows ever more devastating as the final days draw near, and as David’s pronouncements create both deprivation and division in the group. A clean white sheet becomes a shroud; a member’s motivations are questioned; a baby cries; a curtain billows softly, like angel wings, in the quiet wind. Little is said, and little needs to be said; this is a tale of desperate waiting and longing, told mostly through lingering close-ups on faces. “It’s not worth it,” a member tells another at one point. She looks back at him, an untold story of another life in her eyes. “It is,” she says. “It has to be.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org