Cinematic Releases: Surviving Confession (2019) - Reviewed

In the Catholic Church, confession is a crucial part of existence. Day to day life is the push and pull between sins. Good and evil. Every choice you make whether you acknowledge it or not, if you follow this system, is viewed by God in either a negative or a positive light. If you follow this belief system, you know what it’s like. The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God like the "prodigal son" and to acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before the priest. It allows one to be spiritual and morally honest with their faults as a human being. It is reconciliation between you and your creator. For those who go to it, it can be a spiritually fulfilling act. It’s the spiritual equivalent of seeing your shrink on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis. It’s nice to have it built into your life. But for the priest, it can be daunting.  Surviving Confession is a wonderful story about the people who take confession and how they deal with it in a comedic yet dramatically honest way. 

Father Morris is a dissatisfied priest who has not been happy with his job for some time. After hearing another unremorseful and untruthful confession from a parishioner who is cheating on his wife, a quick-witted teenager, Amber, comes into his confessional and starts to turn Father Morris’s life upside down. Amber questions everything Father Morris stands for, and begins to get under his skin in a way that hasn’t happened before. Throughout the evening, interesting characters pass through Father Morris’s confessional as he reflects on what matters most in life and continues to quip with Amber, who slowly reveals why she came to confession.

The concept of confession allows the participant strict privacy. Juggling guilt and honesty, you find yourself face-to-face with a trustworthy figure of godly representation. That priest is there to listen without judgment, yet they now know details of your sins or what they do.  What do they do with those facts? How do they cope with holding onto these secrets? For Father Morris, he is struggling. Other people’s emotional baggage has become the monkey on his back tormenting him and offering him no solace. 

Writer Nathan Shane Miller and director Matthew Tibbenham establish this film as a rapid-fire standoff between characters who are trapped in a moral pickle. It is a film about morality and existing in the real world. Can someone be a bad priest and still be a good person? It is uses cutting asides and dark humor to make a point about the people who spiritual watch over you and those who depend on those who need that salivation. Surviving Confession is a surprising film, a film about a priest that is surprisingly not very preachy but manages to entertain and challenge your perception. In these challenging times, that’s all you can really ask for.  

--Liam O'Connor