Ordinary Sinner

2003, Movie, NR, 91 mins

Review

ORDINARY SINNER
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Well intentioned but unfocused, director John Henry Davis's debut feature tries to tackle two serious subjects at once: maintaining one's faith in a universe that's seemingly without meaning, and the ways in which scripture is used to justify anti-gay violence. After his attempts to rescue a troubled young man ends in tragedy, Peter Thompson (Brendan P. Hines) abandons his plans to become an Episcopalian priest, drops out of the seminary and leaves Albany for home, a small college town nestled in the green hills of Vermont. Peter moves into an empty shed on the campus of Pemberwick College, where his childhood friend, Alex (Kris Park), is now a student. He also pays a visit to his one-time mentor, Father Ed (A Martinez), at the local Episcopalian church. Father Ed gently tries to turn Peter back to his calling, but Peter no longer sees the sense in all the rules and prayers; he's become convinced that what goes on inside the church has nothing to do with reality. Alex introduces Peter to his friend Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), an anthropology student who's taking a summer semester, and Rachel wastes no time in getting the shy and inexperienced former seminarian out of his clothes and into bed. The sunny summer days are darkened by a series of brutal attacks directed against the college's gay and lesbian students, but Peter pays them little mind until Father Ed speaks out against gay-bashing during his Sunday sermon, then admits his own homosexuality. Father Ed suspects the attacks are the work of a local radical Christian cell, and Peter decides to investigate. His search becomes even more personal when someone close to Peter is killed, and he begins to suspect that what at first appears to have been an accident might in fact be hate-driven homicide. Peter's loss of faith, the hate crimes plaguing Pemberwick's gay community and the possible murder ultimately don't have anything to do with one another, and the film would have been better served had Davis picked a single theme and stuck close to it. In attempting to pull these diffuse strands together and end the film with an unexpected twist, Davis winds up suggesting that the real danger isn't religious intolerance, but unrequited homosexual desire. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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