The idea of penance is covered in Mark O’Brien’s The Righteous after a former priest, Frederic (Henry Czerny) and his wife, Ethel Mason (Mimi Kuzyk), mourn the loss of their adopted child. When they’re visited in the middle of the night by an injured stranger, Frederic sees this as his chance to do the right thing. 

Every scene is thoughtfully done and every technical decision made enhances and carries the story forward, most notably with the lighting. The Righteous begins with a shot of Frederic praying, a bright spotlight cast down upon him. From the windows, the sun shines in and the fire in their home glows bright, always bathing him. The choice to have this film shot for and presented in black and white allows our focus to be solely on this utilisation of light, which reminds us that there’s an omnipresent force looking down on them. The use of darkness that sometimes cloaks Czerny completely, turning him into a silhouetted figure, has us questioning his true nature. 

The three performances are extremely well done, especially from Czerny, who has this brewing anger just underneath the surface, like a pot about to boil over. The creeping score underlines this mounting feeling that something sinister is just around the corner. But when everything finally starts to unravel, the once mystery turns into a metaphor that becomes too heavy handed, and at times, almost feels like O’Brien is delivering a sermon to the audience.

The Righteous is a beautifully shot slow burn with a heavy reliance on dialogue that requires a bit of patience to see it through to the end, and although the back and forth between Czerny and O’Brien keeps viewers enticed throughout, the build up doesn’t amount to much.



CAST: Henry Czerny, Mimi Kuzyk, Mark O’Brien

DIRECTOR: Mark O’Brien

WRITER: Mark O’Brien

SYNOPSIS: A burdened man feels the wrath of God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.