Combustible Celluloid Review - What Remains (2022), Nathan Scoggins, Nathan Scoggins, Cress Williams, Kellan Lutz, Anne Heche, Marcus Gladney, Jr., Stelio Savante, Juliana Destefano
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With: Cress Williams, Kellan Lutz, Anne Heche, Marcus Gladney, Jr., Stelio Savante, Juliana Destefano
Written by: Nathan Scoggins
Directed by: Nathan Scoggins
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 101
Date: 12/02/2022
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What Remains (2022)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Forgive and Take

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This drama is often painfully slow, and sometimes suffers from budgetary restraints — it's more talky than visual — but its message of forgiveness comes through clearly and without heavy-handedness.

Pastor Marshall (Cress Williams) gives a sermon about how he has decided to forgive Troy Parker (Kellan Lutz), the man who cause the Pastor's wife's death. Five years later, Parker is released from prison. Unable to find a job, Parker stops by the church to talk to the Pastor; the Pastor once again does the right thing and offers Parker a job. Over time, they talk and begin to form something of a friendship.

Unfortunately, the Pastor's son Samuel (Marcus Gladney Jr.) has never forgiven his father for being so kind to his mother's killer, and they have grown apart. Now Samuel is about to leave for college on a full scholarship, but becomes even more outraged to find Parker working at the church. Meanwhile, sheriff Maureen (Anne Heche) investigates a burned truck with a dead body inside.

Even though it has a murder mystery woven into it, What Remains seems to have been downshifted into a lower gear, and little suspense is generated. More straightforward dramatic scenes — as witness a long montage of characters cleaning scrap wood from an abandoned property — sometimes leave us glazed over. But at the heart of the movie are some genuine human conundrums that are well worth pondering. The pastor's sermon about forgiveness is convincing, but behind the scenes, he is less than fully convinced. He's hurting, and, unfortunately, a natural human response is vengeance, i.e. lashing out at the one that cause the hurt.

Samuel is all about vengeance, and writer/director Nathan Scoggins does a good job of establishing with a few economical scenes that the rest of this small Texas town are on his side; nobody wants Parker around. All of this makes the Pastor's decision even harder, and harder still as Parker becomes less a force of evil and more a troubled human being.

A curious scene in which Scoggins splits the screen into two halves depicts two scenarios: one in which the Pastor has a hard discussion with Samuel, and one in which they ignore one another. The movie never returns to the former scenario, and only follows the latter one, which is a strange and bold choice. In that, What Remains subtly, beautifully suggests that, while we as humans have fierce feelings and reactions, that understanding begins with conversation, and forgiveness comes from understanding.

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