The Overnighters review – a sobering depiction of America in crisis | Film | The Observer

Here’s another film with a misleadingly Halloween-ish title, but this documentary is a horror story in its way. Jesse Moss has undertaken a one-man job, just him and his camera trailing Jay Reinke, a Lutheran pastor in Williston, North Dakota. Because of a local fracking boom, Williston has become a magnet for jobseekers from all over the US, and Reinke has opened up his church as a shelter for these migrants. Coming across like a cross between Harrison Ford and Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, Reinke is a quietly determined battler who stands for old-school hospitality and compassion. But these values do not go down well in a community where nervous residents close ranks against the outsiders and, eventually, against Reinke.

The film hits a narrative goldmine as Reinke’s mission becomes his ordeal. Moss tantalisingly leaves us to speculate on the role played by a vindictive guest of Reinke’s, and he has no need to spell out the failings of a man whose urge to help others causes him to make ruinous mistakes. Increasingly, a beleaguered Reinke reveals his anxieties – and finally his secrets – to his confidant behind the camera. The result is arguably intrusive, with the film getting closest to its subject when all his defences are down, but it makes for acute portraiture – and for a sobering depiction of an America in crisis that looks shockingly close to the desperation of the 1930s.

via The Overnighters review – a sobering depiction of America in crisis | Film | The Observer.