The Righteous Film Review: Bergman, Hitchcock… O’Brien?

Dark, cold and mysterious… The aesthetic of The Righteous is reminiscent of late great Noir filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock, with a Canadian twist.

Mark O'Brien in The Righteous
Mark O’Brien in The Righteous

The Righteous is an unintentional ode to Canada and Canadian talent; filmed in Newfoundland using a largely Canadian cast and crew, this film manages to capture the vibe of Newfoundland without mention of time or place. This is the writing and directorial debut of Mark O’Brien (most notably played character, Des Courtney in Republic of Doyle). Viewers are immediately met by familiar Canadian faces including O’Brien, Mimi Kuzyk (veteran actress with a career spanning 40 years, known for many roles including Pauline Drury in Traders), Henry Czerny (Toronto born actor with over 100 acting credits including recurring roles in action movie franchise Mission Impossible) and Mayko Nguyen (veteran actress and series regular on hit shows Hudson and Rex and Killjoys). I had an opportunity to sit down with Mark to discuss his new film, The Righteous.

The Righteous starts off by introducing viewers to its characters through a deeply felt tragedy. Main characters, Frederic Mason (played by Henry Czerny) and Ethel Mason (played by Mimi Kuzyk) are grief stricken after the sudden loss of their young daughter. As the story unfolds, the viewers are taken through a dystopian reality of the film’s protagonist, Frederic (Czerny). As Frederic tries in vain to grapple with his unhinging reality, the film’s antagonist, Aaron Smith played by O’Brien, reveals a grand malady. The film relies solely on the talent of its cast, which is immense – no flashy CGI or big budget expenses – it is a well crafted, artistic film which will resonate with Noir buffs and film lovers alike. O’Brien injects moments of unexpected humour, courtesy of Kate Corbett’s character Doris, utilizing enthralling monologues and her bright expressive eyes. Corbett expertly portrays a kind-hearted, somewhat distraught tetartagonist role. Much like Corbett’s character Doris, Nigel Bennett’s character, Graham, adds another layer of depth and intrigue to this haunting story.

Henry Czerny - The Righteous
Henry Czerny – The Righteous

The Righteous offers viewers a myriad of complex layers; each dichotomy amplified by dramatic lighting, thought-provoking dialogue and a genuine connection evident between the actors. Mark is a direct contrast to his character, Aaron; he is personable, kind and authentically Canadian. We sat down for a brief chat at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, where his naturally jovial character was on full display. Mark spoke highly of the talent and synergy present on set; noting everyone got along which helped with the development of on-screen relationships and adept execution of tone. O’Brien’s performance is compelling enough to convince you he is Aaron Smith, yet, when sitting next to him, it is clear his skills are sublime. Despite his contrasting demeanor, O’Brien offers how the disconnect experienced by the family of the movie is something everyone, especially he can relate to as, “your family [and] your home really represents who you are”.

Mimi Kuzyk and Mark O'Brien - The Righteous
Mimi Kuzyk and Mark O’Brien – The Righteous

O’Brien’s mixture of bold monologues and jarring dialogue is a refreshing take on this modern Noir-esque film. Bennett’s character, Graham, delivers one of the most compelling lines in the film while trying to console Frederic (Czerny) in a moment of weakness, “Be careful what you wish for, be certain what you pray for”; this, according to O’Brien, just highlights the importance of understanding when you will something you really want, you have to be prepared to face the good, the bad and potentially the ugly.

O’Brien created a film filled with layers of dichotomies; from the Noir film aesthetic to a multitude of references of good versus evil, his film will leave viewers contemplative. This indie film is sure to be a cult classic, one to watch on repeat, offering more revelations per view.

The Righteous opens June 3, 2022 at Scotiabank Theatre located at 259 Richmond Street West, downtown Toronto.