The daughter of a Pentecostal pastor named Lemeul Childs (Walton Goggins), and living in a remote community in Appalachia, Mara (Alice Englert) is as devout to her father as she is to her religion. Lemuel incorporates deadly snakes into his preaching as he believes they sense and test true faith. He finds who he thinks is a great suitor for his daughter to marry in Garret (Lewis Pullman) but is unaware that Mara’s affair with non-believer Augie (Thomas Mann) means she is pregnant. It’s a secret she has kept even from her best friend, Dilly (Kaitlyn Dever), but Augie’s mother Hope (Olivia Colman) starts to become suspicious.
Life in this rural, isolated area of Appalachia moves slowly and contemplatively, though fortunately the same can’t be said of ‘Them That Follow’. It moves at a good pace but has a fairly predictable trajectory as the truth comes out. Wrapping up with a frustrating open finale, what ‘Them That Follows’ culminates in is a generally entertaining albeit not all that special kind of movie.
One thing that can be said for the film is the fantastic standard of acting. Regarding the young cast, Kaitlyn Dever, having starred in Netflix series ‘Unbelievable’ and comedic romp ‘Booksmart’ this year already, continues to rise in her career. In the lead role, Alice Englert (‘Ginger & Rose’, ‘Beautiful Creatures’) simply amazes. You really feel for these young characters’ utter sense of devotion – Garrett to Mara, Mara to the church, Dilly to the belief that her mom will return home.
One ought to be warned that in spite of top billing, ‘The Crown’ star Olivia Colman’s role is very much that of a support. Mind you, she’s as brilliant as always whether giving Mara life advice, or in turmoil as a mother forced to choose between her faith and her son. As for Goggins, he is just loving playing the intense, loud and kinetic preacher who gets all his followers up on their feet and dances around with snakes.
The community is portrayed as tightly knit and traditional but incommunicative. The women sew patchwork while the men go to hunt and certain courtship rituals must occur before a girl can marry. Attempts at symbolism are included, for example, Mara speaks at the start of the film of how snakes stay in a mass and crawl over one another to stay warm to survive. In a nutshell, the debut feature from Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage – who previously worked on a short also reptilian themed, ‘Lizard King’ – is unexceptional but a decent first attempt.