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Review: The Overnighters

November 7, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

The Overnighters Poster

The North Dakota oil fields are taking their toll on the environment and natural landscapes, but they are also providing jobs for men struggling to find work.  The men are grateful for the opportunity to make money, but they are left needing a roof over their heads, many of them sleeping in their vehicles.

Pastor Jay Reinke has graciously opened the doors of his Lutheran Church as a shelter for these hundreds of unemployed men passing through town looking for work.  But the locals are growing increasingly suspicious of having these newcomers and strangers hanging around.

After playing at Hot Docs, The Overnighters is opening exclusively at TIFF Bell Lightbox today, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.  I’ve been waiting awhile for this one to reach theatres so that more people can join the important and incredibly timely conversation that the film provokes.

Because for every question and purported answer that the documentary offers, there is another moral dilemma lurking around the corner.  And what on the surface seems like a simple act of charity on the part of the church, turns into a nuanced story with surprising layers that keep being peeled back right up to the haunting final scene.  At this point, The Overnighters becomes a heartbreaking portrait of poverty that asks if past sins can ever truly be forgiven, as the town starts to fear the men their pastor is trying to help.

Director Jesse Moss gains shockingly intimate access to his subjects, capturing devastatingly raw moments throughout this complex and emotionally involving documentary.  There are no easy answers here, just a fascinating conversation to be had about the prices we pay for trying to help the people that society has rejected.

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