Written and directed by Riley Stearns
Starring Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jon Gries, Lance Reddick, Beth Grant, Chris Ellis
Claire is under the grip of a mysterious new cult called Faults. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire’s parents recruit one of the world’s foremost experts on mind control, Ansel Roth.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives one of the best performances of her career in this tight and gripping drama about a young girl taken in by a cult and the down-on-his-luck “expert” who is trying to get her back home to her parents. It’s never flashy, it’s never over dramatic and it’s always powerful, Faults is a brilliant movie.
Set mostly within one motel room, Faults can feel pretty claustrophobic at times but it also gives you brief reprieves when Ansel (Leland Orser) heads outside to go take care of other business. First time feature writer and director Riley Sterns has crafted a brilliant script that plays to all of its strengths and never tries to step outside of its means. Because of this, the 89 minute runtime flies by without a moments notice as you’re sucked into this story.
This is helped by truly wonderful performances from its two central actors. As mentioned earlier, this is among the best work done by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and could easily be the best she’s pulled out. Her character is scared, but she somehow always feels in control and even when all of the chips are down, she is quietly manipulative to Ansel’s methods of “saviour”. You firmly believe in everything she says to the point where you question just how Ansel is going to get her back home. Leland Orser is also terrific as this former star of cult-saving glory who has fallen on the hardest of hard times and he gives a subtle and genuine performance to reflect that. Even though he is doing this just to get money from Peter to pay Paul, Ansel cares about Claire and he wants to save her. It’s never out rightly posed as sexual, but there is an underlying tension between the two which is masterfully directed and performed.
The movie also raises some interesting questions about the idea of cult and cult leaderships. Faults often mentions other cults that Ansel has encountered and how his actions have lead to either the saviour or death of its victims and it subtly starts to raise the idea that he himself is something of a cult leader. It’s this kind of beautiful subtly that runs throughout Faults which not only makes it all the more interesting to watch, but also to think about once it’s all over. Like any great movie, Faults gets better the more it plays in your mind and you’ll want to go back and revisit it again to see if you can see anymore of the nuances of Stearns’ direction.
Faults is a really, really great movie with a tremendous script, brilliant direction and a pair of superb leading performances. It will have you hooked to the final moments and it will linger with you long after it’s done. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of this generation’s most underutilised actresses and Leland Orser deserves to be more recognised than he currently is. A terrific first movie from Riley Starns who is one to watch out for in years to come.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.