The best and the worst

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY


Di­rected by Jesse Moss Fea­tur­ing Jay Reinke, Kee­gan Ed­wards. Club, Light House, Dublin, 90 min About five min­utes be­fore the fi­nal cred­its, Jesse Moss’s award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary hits us with the nar­ra­tive twist of the year: it’s a doozy of a plot point, one we kick our­selves for not twig­ging, one that prompts the viewer to reap­praise ev­ery­thing that came be­fore.

Long be­fore this un­ex­pected de­vel­op­ment, The Overnighters has es­tab­lished its cre­den­tials as beau­ti­fully crafted, multi-lay­ered piece of sto­ry­telling, and as an im­por­tant snap­shot of the new Great De­pres­sion. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to think of John Stein­beck watch­ing men and women – though mostly the for­mer – de­scend upon North Dakota, in buses and vans and busted up RVs.

They’re hop­ing that the oil boom in the Bakken fields in the western part of the state will give them a shot at a pay­check. They leave be­hind de­serted, aban­doned small towns. They speak like the streets are paved with gold, and about peo­ple with many felonies on their record scor­ing of $100,000-a-year jobs. Dirty, lu­cra­tive work borne of frack­ing.

The state has nei­ther the re­sources nor the hous­ing to cope with this in­flux. En­ter Lutheran Rev­erend Jay Reinke, a de­cent chap who opens his home and his church to home­less mi­grant work­ers.

Over two years, film-maker Jesse Moss drifted in and out of the pas­tor’s makeshift ‘snorer’s room’ and RV stop at the Con­cor­dia Lutheran Church in the lit­tle town of Wil­lis­ton. But over two years, the Rev­erend’s “overnighters” pro­gramme be­comes in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar with his parish­ioners; some eu­phemisti­cally cite fire reg­u­la­tions, oth­ers sim­ply view th­ese in­ter­lop­ers as trash. A lo­cal news­pa­per fans the flames by search­ing out regis­tered sex of­fend­ers among the thou­sands of no­mads who re­ceive the pas­tor’s char­ity.

A com­pelling por­trait of the very best and very worst of hu­man­ity, Moss’s riv­et­ing film asks the viewer where they’ll stand as the global eco­nomic cri­sis wors­ens: with the kindly shep­herd or with the mean-spir­ited flock?

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