The Devout (2015) – Connor Gaston

Opening at the Carlton Cinema here in Toronto is this lovingly crafted, intimate drama that is bound to move viewers even as it raises questions of belief, faith and hope.

The debut effort of writer/director Connor Gaston was shot in Victoria, British Columbia. It is a beautiful film that features perfectly on point, and gently restrained performances from Charlie Carrick, Ali Liebert (and her wonderfully expressive eyes), and young new-comer, preschooler Olivia Martin.

Darryl (Carrick) and Jan (Liebert) are a loving Christian couple in a small town that is united in its faith. It is also united in its support of the duo, as their little girl, Abigail (Martin) has terminal cancer, and the end is drawing close.

Putting on a brave face for their little girl, the family does its best to make things wonderful for Abigail’s day to day life, even as Jan and Darryl try to prepare themselves for the inevitable. Watching Liebert’s face transform from a joyous smile to barely containing her tears is heartbreaking, and Carrick’s turn as Darryl struggling with his faith rings with honesty.

While neither of them say anything to each other, or to their church, you know that they are questioning the wisdom of god in putting their little girl, and their family through this. They suffer together, in silence, trying to use the time they know is running out. But the thought runs through your mind over and over, what kind of god would put a family through such a thing?

And yet, they struggle onward together, united in their faith, as they play, laugh, and indulge Abigail’s love of space, and rockets.

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Until this earnest little girl tells Darryl she was an astronaut, and died in a fire.

Darryl is troubled, and intrigued, and sees before him, the slimmest glimmer of hope that he won’t lose his little girl, even if the possibility of it conflicts with his religious beliefs.

Is it possible? Has she lived before? Past lives? Reincarnation? Have we all experienced this? And will she and us experience it again? Darryl throws himself into the mystery, investigating, discovering, following wherever the possibility may lead.

The film hints at hope, even in the depths of tragedy and loss. Being a fictional tale, the film isn’t there to provide facts, but it does fan that candle. The one we light to keep back the darkness, the questions. How often has one lain there in the dark, staring up at the bare ceiling, or the glorious sweep of a starry sky, and not wondered what happens to us after we die? Is there more? Where do we go? What do we do?

Every religion has its answers, and the true believers in each will tell you that the KNOW, but in the end it is only their belief. It’s a beautiful mystery that each of us get to solve in our own time, and The Devout does a glorious job of telling one family’s tale.

There is an intimacy to the film. It feels small and quiet; a whisper that tugs at heartstrings as it speaks both of loss and possibility.

Do yourself a favour and get out to the theatre this weekend to support this award winning Canadian film. You won’t be disappointed.

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We were lucky enough to be able to talk with Charlie Carrick about The Devout, his wonderful castmates, and the film itself. Check it out below:

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