As It Is in Heaven (NR)

Drama 86 min. August 8, 2014
By Michael Atkinson
An indie-film challenge: Try to make an earnest movie about a doomsday cult in which the characters are not all bat-shit nuts. First-timer Joshua Overbay's palm-sized hyperventilator plops down in the center of a tiny millenarian church stationed in a sprawling Kentucky farmhouse, led by an aging messiah (John Lina), and recently joined by a wide-eyed, doubt-free apostle (Chris Nelson). There are no outside points of reference, just white shirts, hymn humming, and Bibles raised to the ceiling. The doctrinal details of the faith and its Rapture mythology are never mentioned — just universalized beseechments to the Lord and, when the patriarch falls ill, a power struggle dominated by the newbie's questionable visions and his tragic insistence on a fast leading up to Judgment.

Overbay's palette is carefully lyrical, at a benumbed Martha Marcy May Marlene pitch; he pays attention to the verdant landscape and keeps his cast at a pensive and watchful low boil. The upshot, though, becomes a Rorschach test — there is little overt suggestion that these content Americans are deluded, however much the sweaty tension of the leads and owlish passivity of everyone else (Overbay cast the film with faces that evoke flight-or-fight response in the secular viewer) smacks of group dementia. If you're a millenarian, you could read the film as a drama of the devout — at least until the ending, when the clock runs out.
Joshua Overbay Luke Beavers, Sylvia Boykin, Meredith Cave, Abi Van Andel, Kassandra Botts, John Lina, Janelle M. Gore, Carola Lina Ginny Lee Overbay, Joshua Overbay Nathaniel Glass, Joshua Overbay, Michael Grout

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