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Apostasy ★★★★

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Released: 27th July 2018

Directed By: Daniel Kokotajlo

Starring: Molly Wright, Sacha Parkinson

Reviewed By: Dion Wyn

Daniel Kokotajlo’s debut feature Apostasy has received rave reviews across the board. For his feature he has ventured into his former life as a Jehovah’s Witness. The British filmmaker based the film in Oldham, and has been received well by former Jehovah’s Witnesses. What Kokotajlo’s story about you ask?Jehovah’s Witnesses, Alex (Molly Wright) , Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) , and their mother Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran), are united in their devotion. Alex looks up to her confident older sister, while striving to follow in Ivanna’s footsteps as a ‘good Witness’.But as Luisa starts to question the advice of the elders, she makes a transgression that leaves the whole family in fear of God’s wrath. Unless Ivanna and Alex can persuade her to return, they must shun her completely. This challenge becomes more painful when their family is faced with another heartbreaking test of faith.

Apostasy is profound, ethereal, and in its ruthlessly authentic with a delicate approach to its characters and religious surroundings. It denies the viewer almost all opportunities of releasing tension and frustration. The boxed ratio and ever present close-up shots, flatters the expressive faces of the three lead actresses. Yet you can feel the claustrophobia they are suffering due to their situation.  A lot goes unspoken throughout, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by the audience. Kokotajlo’s direction is sensitive and subtle; his own background as a Jehovah’s Witness informs this film, and Apostasy benefits from his experiences. Family drama is at the heart of the film and the great strength is that it never forgets this; and the narrative is guided by strong characters, their relationships and story arcs. Religion isn’t the driving force of this story, it’s the family.

Molly Wright gives a powerhouse of a performance, the camera is constantly focused on her, placing her in the centre of each frame. Wright’s performance is conveyed mostly through her eyes and facial expressions, you can feel her confusion and pain. Apostasy humanises its characters, it doesn’t hold back on the slow-build of dark despair. It’s more than ready to topple expectations, this is what makes it so powerful. Apostasy is a strong debut film from Daniel Kokotajlo; he gives bleak exposé on Jehovah’s Witnesses that could equivalently apply across a number of other faiths and cultures. Apostasy is a pure film about paternal decisions as it is in a religious sense. Available on Curzon Home Cinema at the moment, a very important British film to be witnessed by all.

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