Them That Follow
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Mara's father Lemuel runs a sect that incorporates snake handling into his preaching. After a minor dies while handling snakes, Lemuel is warned that the police are investigating him. He allows Garret to claim the snakes are his and lose his job to protect his congregation.
Before marriage, Mara's virginity is checked by Hope Slaughter, Augie's mother. Hope realizes that not only is Mara not a virgin, she is pregnant, as well. Hope decides to keep Mara's pregnancy a secret from Lemuel and Garret, but informs Augie and urges him to repent.
The following day Augie's condition has worsened. After hearing the news, Mara informs her friend, Dilly, that she is pregnant with Augie's child. Dilly then informs Garret who attempts to rape Mara. He is stopped by Lemuel, but before Lemuel throws him out Garret informs Lemuel of Mara's pregnancy.
Anton Chekhov warned other playwrights that if a rifle on the wall of a set isn't going to be fired at some point, it shouldn't be hanging there. Substitute a rifle for a poisonous serpent in a box, and you have \"Them That Follow.\"
The film's heroine, Lemuel's daughter Mara (Alice Engert), is engaged to marry a fellow member of the church (Lewis Pullman's Garrett) but was secretly impregnated by an ex-church member named Augie (Thomas Mann), and the big question is whether she's ultimately going to escape from the clutches of her father and his people or succumb to the clearly repressive and superstitious life that she's known since birth.
Still, Poulton, Savage and their key collaborators (in particular, cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz and editor Joshua Raymond Lee) guide this material with a steady hand, making sure every scene and moment counts and that the supporting characters (including Kaitlyn Dever as Mara's best friend Dilly, whose mother abandoned her, and Olivia Colman as the convert Hope, who's married to Jim Gaffigan's devout Zeke) have important moments and little grace notes. As in other recent American films set in remote white rural communities (including \"Mine 9\"), and earlier efforts in the same vein like \"Sling Blade,\" you can feel the internal tension that must have beset the project. Returning periodically to those slithering reptiles, and bringing in bits of backstory involving the death of a young boy from snakebite and an ongoing police investigation of Lemuel's church, \"Them That Follow\" is constantly teetering on the edge of redneck-sploitation, but instead settles into a low-key lament for poor people trapped in impossible circumstances.
Shot in wide format, with a darting handheld camera, mostly with lenses that make the layers of landscape seem to stack on top of each other like the flat planes of a stage set, \"Them That Follow\" is subtly suffocating, reflecting its characters' distress through filmmaking rather than by having the them repeat endless variations of \"I feel trapped.\" The acting and filmmaking are so much more imaginative than the script (which also falls into the rookie trap of mistaking a lack of humor for seriousness) that in the end, this feels like a dry run for something deeper and more daring. But the funereal gloom of the forest and the earnest anxiety of the performances (particularly by Goggins and fellow \"Justified' alumnus Dever) are worth a look.
Colman is superb as the most faithful woman in that church, explaining what she gets out of it, enforcing its dogma on the women but letting compassion guide her. And comic Jim Gaffigan brings gravitas to her husband, almost as devoted but a man with limits.
From writer/directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, the indie drama Them That Follow is set deep in Appalachia, where Pastor Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins) presides over a Pentecostal sect of serpent handlers. At the same time, his devoted daughter, Mara (Alice Englert), is preparing for her wedding day while also being forced to confront the fact that a dangerous secret could put her directly at odds with the traditions of her family and community.
What was it about this character that you really identified with immediately, and were there things that you felt that you grew to understand or appreciate about her, the longer you lived with her
Christina Radish is the Senior Entertainment Reporter at Collider. Having worked at Collider for over a decade (since 2009), her primary focus is on film and television interviews with talent both in front of and behind the camera. She is a theme park fanatic, which has lead to covering various land and ride openings, and a huge music fan, for which she judges life by the time before Pearl Jam and the time after. She is also a member of the Critics Choice Association and the Television Critics Association.
She will play Dilly Picket, daughter to an opioid-addicted mother who has come of age in a religious community that doubts her, but with the help of longtime friend Mara (Englert), the daughter of pastor Lemuel Childs (Goggins), she holds onto her faith.
The \"them\" in the title refers to the fundamentalists who believe that handling snakes will prove their faith to their judgmental godforce. In a sect deep in the woods of Appalachia, a preacher guides his daughter Mara, meaning \"bitter,\" toward heaven, or his definition of heaven, not hers.
Mara is infatuated with Augie, so infatuated that she is impregnated, a secret she bears with woe. Augie does not follow the faith. He scoffs at it so Mara has to remind him that it's not just her father's practice but hers as well. She shows him a nest of vipers and glories in the beauty of the writhing mass.
Religion has always fascinated directors since the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the latest to enter the fray might seem unpredictable on its surface. Directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage's Them That Follow takes the tale of a family of Pentecostals and turns it into a feature about feminism, faith, and love. Alice Englert's Mara is at the center of things, the daughter of the local pastor (Walton Goggins) and set to marry the mild-mannered Garret (Lewis Pullman). But Mara's true love is Augie (Thomas Mann), a Pentecostal ex-pat. What keeps Them That Follow so engaging isn't just the cast, all of whom are doing some intense work with snakes, no less, but how reverently the feature portrays this religion. There's no judgement or hatred. Instead the camera remains as objective as possible, allowing audiences into a world that is, at times, frightening. I sat down with stars Englert and Mann during this year's SXSW to talk about religion, feminism, and more.
Thomas Mann: Reading it, obviously. It's a crazy physical journey as an actor [and] I knew that would be exciting and fun. I'd never done anything like that. Also, the community it's about I didn't know anything about and figured it'd be worth exploring for myself and for the world.
TM: Actually not bad. We did have a rattlesnake on-set at one point, not that we were holding, [and] just to hear the rattle, it sends shivers down your spine. It's really unsettling. And holding the snakes, we had these Texas rat snakes which were friendlier and not venomous. We were able to mess around with them more freely and they were pretty cool about it.
AE: I think that's definitely part of the reason they're so central in this faith. The Bible verse which the religion is inspired by - it's only in the King James version of the Bible and not in earlier iterations and is, in fact, disputed and controversially rooted in the Christian community. I think it's George Hensley, the last century. He was a moonshiner who started this Bible verse that comes from Mark, chapter 16....
TM: We did a lot of research and a lot of time with the directors because they'd already done a lot of it. A lot of stuff I learned from conversations with them, but we went to a Pentecostal church - not a snake-handling church - which is different from many different churches I've been to. That was really eye-opening.
AE: I always thought that church was an interesting space because it's a validated space for expression that then is curtailed and controlled outside of worship. They're very particular on how to behave, but this is somewhere you can do most anything that's inspired by faith and inspired by the holy ghost, and you feel it.
AE: I think I need to play women who have contrarian and possessed duality. It's funny, I always loved Beautiful Creatures because ultimately there was something inside the fantasy of that world and the fantasy of the stakes that, to me, actually rang true about somebody being told they had to choose and the idea that choosing is a structure and you can take it down. To be in a place of reality you have to. For me, Mara, has to wrestle with her world being more complicated than her original allows it to be. With characters I will do anything that I feel I can be excited and without lying. Do you know how some characters feel they're a lie You're already pretending, don't make me lie as well. Don't make me be like \"Oh, this is what a girl's like\" Don't make me lie.
TM: They're not pretentious at all. They show up. They care about the work a lot, but they're not pretentious about it and they don't shove it in other people's faces. I just like to sit back and watch them work. They're both so fun to watch.
AE: I'm loving that we're doing these comparisons! Olivia and Emma always struck me as people who are actually super complex and sensitive, but they're also very light and playful. I don't know in this industry, when you're trying to get to know people as themselves, outside of their characters, has enough space to see all of that in the actors' personalities. There's something dense. They're incredible. That's why they're so good!
TM: They both have this thing where you can see them in a ballgown as easily as you can see them at a bar having a beer. There's this highbrow/lowbrow thing. Emma and Olivia in a movie together! \"Beers and Ballgowns.\" 59ce067264