It comes as little surprise that a number of the anti-gay pastors in America have actually been practicing what they preach against. Internalised homophobia can manifest in hugely destructive forms, and is often exacerbated by a proximity to power, whether that be religious or social. The Revival explores this topic through the story of an Arkansas pastor named Eli (David Rysdahl), who becomes enamoured with Daniel (Zachary Booth), a ruggedly handsome drifter.
The film touches on some intriguing themes, most notably the overlap between religion and capitalism in the US. As Eli struggles to keep his church financially afloat with more high-minded, progressive sermons, the temptation to fall back on a more simplistic (and homophobic) message is a dark reflection of the struggle with his sexuality.
However, such themes are only touched upon in the script, and the film is held back by its stage roots. The cast is small, and scenes either take place indoors, or in the wilderness. The presence of the community that puts pressure on Eli and Daniel is barely felt, as they are embodied by Eli’s immediate social circle, rather than a wider populace. It may work on stage, but as a film the scale feels small.
What doesn’t help either is the direction by Jennifer Gerber. Two sex scenes which mark dramatic moments for the characters are made unintentionally hilarious due to misreads in tone, and poor direction of the cast. Daniel giving Eli a blowjob, performed in a single, unbroken take, should highlight the complex emotions at play but instead draws attention to the awkwardness of the actors.
In subject matter, The Revival holds a lot of potential. However, the conclusion will infuriate a lot of gay audience members, and the lack of scale and cinematic flair makes it a trudge to watch.
CAST: David Rysdahl, Zachary Booth, Lucy Faust, Raymond McAnally
DIRECTOR: Jennifer Gerber
WRITER: Samuel Brett Willaims
SYNOPSIS: A secret love affair between a southern Baptist preacher and a young drifter challenges the equilibrium of a growing church.