The Last Sin Eater

The Last Sin Eater is probably the most unusual Christian movie to come to theaters since the barely seen Time Changer. A Sin Eater is a figure from Welsh folklore. He is typically a pariah, called upon when somebody dies. After the funeral, the Sin Eater will take the sins of the recently deceased upon himself, allowing the deceased to pass peacefully into the afterlife. So while the story is unusual, it's easy to see where director Michael Landon Jr. is heading. The setting is 1850s Appalachia, where Welsh immigrants have settled deep into the mountains. They are very suspicious of outsiders, and still live with their traditions, including a Sin Eater.

The location is gorgeous, but The Last Sin Eater feels at times like it was made on the cheap. The worst aspects are the Welsh accents, which are all over the place. Landon has a very international cast, which means he is dealing with various accents. The accents vary, even from the same actors in different scenes. Unlike pretty much every other Christian movie, the proselytizing does not overpower the film. The Last Sin Eater, based on the novel by Francine Rivers and adapted by Landon and Brian Bird (Bopha!) feels more like a mystery film. Moreover, most of the characters in the movie have never even heard of Christianity until well into the movie. The ending is a bit overdone, but this is no different than other movies in this genre.

The plot centers on Cadi Forbes (Liana Liberato), a young girl wracked with guilt. She did something a while ago that caused a rift between her and her mother. The entire town knows what it is, but Landon only throws hints (granted, they're not too hard to piece together) at this event until later in the film. Forbes' first encounter with the Sin Eater (Peter Wingfield, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Catwoman) piques her curiosity. If he can absolve the guilty of their sins, maybe he can make her feel better about hers. Much of the movie deals with Forbes trying to locate the Sin Eater, as well as learning that there is a large secret that many in the town are holding. Landon stumbles with the addition of Lilybet (Thea Rose, Kill Bill Vol. 2), an imaginary girl (or maybe an angel??) that only Cadi can see.

Things change with the arrival of an outsider (Henry Thomas, I Capture the Castle, Gangs of New York), who is preaching to anybody who will listen about "the Truth," and The Last Sin Eater soon moves onto its predetermined track. Landon's accomplishment is the lack of naivete that other Christian films have. He acknowledges that people live in a world where some very un-Christian things happen. The story is not afraid to shy away from these things, which makes the eventual conversion seem more 'real' than it does in other films.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 58 minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, and some intense sequences of violence.

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