MIFF Review: Apostasy

The thought of going on a hot date while your mum munches potato chips in the corner of the room might sound like some twisted kind of punishment. But when you’re a young Jehovah’s Witness courting a prospective spouse, chaperoning is de rigueur.

What’s also normal for a young believer is growing up in “the truth” – a “new system” that will soon, hopefully, flood through the Earth, weeding out the waste and raising up the true believers of God. This process will also – hopefully – exhume your deceased loved ones, bringing them back to life as one of the 144,000 chosen ones, so you can all live forever in paradise.

But God’s love, as we discover in Apostasy, is conditional. A person needs to earn that love, and it can be a painful process in meeting His high standards.

Apostasy follows that painful process as an English mother, ardently devoted to Jehovah and eagerly anticipating the new system, must watch on as one daughter is lost to a “worldly boy” and as her church denies her other child a life-saving blood transfusion.

Getting a knock at the front door or a friendly smile from conservative folk at weekend markets touting the latest copy of The Watchtower is probably the closest that most of us have to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Apostasy takes us inside the day-to-day lives of the witnesses, and the extreme disconnection religion has from mainstream society, sensitively encouraging us to consider what happens to the human mind inside a zeitgeist of unadulterated belief and resolute commitment.

Written and directed by a former witness, Daniel Kokotajlo, Apostasy isn’t an assault or a criticism of the religion. It’s a poignant and sensitive portrayal of the reality of life when you need to choose between your loved ones and your faith.

This is a low-budget film made by a talented debut feature director and portrayed by exceedingly competent actors Siobhan Finneran, Sacha Parkinson and Molly Wright. It’s non-judgmental and utterly intense.

Amber Wilson @ambervwilson