Talking to God

Robert Duvall's new film sees faith as a viable option.

by

comment

The Apostle, written and directed by Robert Duvall, unfolds with the elegant simplicity of a folk tale.

At first, Euliss "Sonny" Dewey (Duvall), a Texas Pentecostal preacher, seems to have everything he values: family, a career fueled by a strong sense of purpose. But Sonny's hardly a saint. His wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) has grown weary of his vices &emdash; drinking, other women, long trips away from home &emdash; and has begun an affair with a younger minister.

Sonny, utterly shameless and convinced of his charm and powers of persuasion, believes he can re-woo her. But Jessie deals him a coup de grace: she wrangles the control of his church away from him.

During a very loud, late-night "discussion" Sonny has with God about his predicament, his mother (June Carter Cash) receives a phone call from a complaining neighbor. Her reaction is not embarrassment, but an almost-bursting pride in her son's direct line to heaven. For Sonny, faith is an active and daily part of life, and he views God not as an abstract concept but a viable entity.

When his life is radically altered by a violent act, Sonny rechristens himself the Apostle E.F., makes a humble pilgrimage to a Louisiana bayou town and builds a new congregation from the ground up. The One Way Road to Heaven Church turns out to be his road to redemption.

Duvall creates a complex and capable man, able to win converts with his knowledge of automobile mechanics as well as the Bible. Even as the Apostle E.F., he still displays a seductive charisma, romantically pursuing Toosie (Miranda Richardson) with confident zeal.

When a racist (Billy Bob Thornton) interrupts the service at his matter-of-factly integrated church, Sonny has no qualms about using his fists. But it's Sonny's words and the fervor of his belief that ultimately win over this hate-filled man.

The Apostle presents a clear-eyed view of the strength derived from unwavering faith. There may be a whole lot of furious preaching going on, but for Robert Duvall, showing devotion is quite different from being preachy.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.