Directed by Riley Stearns
Claire is under the grip of a mysterious new cult called Faults. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire's parents recruit one of the world's foremost experts on mind control, Ansel Roth.
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★★★½ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
“Fault is a fracture. It’s a place where pressure builds until it releases.”
Leland Orser and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star together in this unique dramatic thriller written and directed by Winstead’s husband, Riley Stearns. Faults is his feature debut and after this, there is no doubt he’s going to be getting more offers because it is a very inventive drama that feels like no other movie because it changes and morphs as the story progresses. It is hard to classify this film because it doesn’t feel like any other movie I’ve seen. Orser plays Ansel Roth, an expert on mind control, but it is clear that his glory days are long behind him. When we are introduced to him he’s trying to reuse a coupon for his meal at the hotel where he’s giving a speech on his new book about free will. There are very few people who have signed up for his seminar and he’s evidently in deep financial trouble. An opportunity for redemption shows up when a couple (played by Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) ask Ansel to help them with their daughter. They say she has changed dramatically after finding a mysterious cult and that they are afraid of losing her. Ansel tells them that he can help but that it is going to cost them. He plans on deprogramming her by kidnapping her and having a five day session with her at an undisclosed location. The girl’s name is Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and she claims to be at the happiest point in her life so apparently it won’t be an easy job for Ansel who is going through his personal lowest. What follows is a fascinating psychological control study with touches of dark humor and several twists along the way. The less you know about the film going into it the better off you are.
The production team behind Faults is the same one that brought us last year’s The Guest and the reinvented slasher horror film You’re Next so I was already excited about this film. They present unique projects that at times blend familiar genres or include some sort of surprise element along the way. Faults is a low budget indie film but it never ceases to amaze with a production design that sets the film somewhere around the early 80’s although there is no mention of when the story actually takes place. The film is perfectly executed, it has an interesting premise, and the screenplay is beautifully written by Riley Stearns as it transforms along the way. It’s not one of those films that tries to fool the audience and then presents a twist that no matter how many times you go back and rewatch it it simply doesn’t make any sense. Faults isn’t trying to fool us, instead it is simply telling a story that unfolds in unexpected ways as we reach the climactic finale.
Perhaps what stands out the most in Faults are the two leading performances. Leland Orser delivers the best role of his career and it is great to finally see him in a starring role. His character isn’t someone we should really sympathize with considering he’s simply miserable from the moment we are introduced to him. He’s such a loser but somehow Orser manages to engage us and we want him to have his shot at redemption. We believe he actually knows his stuff on mind control and free will but life has given him an unexpected blow that he seems to be able to recover from. On the other hand Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Claire is enigmatic and we never know what she is really thinking. Winstead delivers one of the best performances of her career as well and the two turn Faults into a highly engaging and hypnotic film well worth your time.
★★★★★ review by Jim Drew on Letterboxd
Really terrific and original thriller about a man whose one calling in life is to pull people out of nefarious cults and back into the tougher real world.
Leland Orser (so great in The Guest as well) puts in a spellbinding performance as a man who's failures in his own life bleed into the god-given talent and the new job that he has and desperately needs. Enlisted by the parents of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Claire, he makes a daring 'rescue' for her and proceeds to attempt to talk her back. Her character doesn't necessarily always react as we might usually expect and as such are never sure where this is all heading.
A joy to watch. Loved the story, loved the two leads given some great material.
★★★★ review by Mr. DuLac on Letterboxd
I'm thinking about how I want to rip your tongue out of your throat so you'll shut up. And you're close enough that I could reach out and strangle you with my bare hands and I'd like to. I'm just waiting for a sign from God.
Leland Orser takes a break from his usually small character roles to star as "one of the world's experts on mind control" Ansel Roth, who has seen better days as his professional and personal life are a mess. It ranks up as one of the best performances of his career as he's given the chance to carry a film.
He doesn't carry it alone though as Ansel is hired to "deprogram" Claire who's fallen victim to a new cult called Faults. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Claire in an equally impressive performance as the majority of the film is just Orser and Winstead alone in a motel room.
Almost all the plot and character development is done through the conversations of the two stars and their characters do evolve during the course of the film a great deal as it explores the cost of free will and the comfort of giving it up. It's presented as a black comedy, and it IS funny, but the humor never takes away from it's serious themes.
A very impressive feature film debut for writer/director Riley Stearns.
★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
If he weren’t a published expert at talking people out of cults, Ansel (Leland Orser) would be an obvious candidate for joining one. The beaten and bedraggled subject of Riley Stearns's mordantly funny first feature, he roams the jaundiced purgatory of Southern California, leveraging sparsely attended seminars to hawk his terrible new book about the virtues of free will. Ansel may not be a con man—Orser’s indelible turn elevates the character’s desperation into its own sad brand of sincerity—but Faults nevertheless delights in questioning the value of his product.
★★★★ review by Christina on Letterboxd
I watched this movie about 8 or so hours ago and I can't stop thinking about it. I was watching a documentary one morning and a director, I forgot whom, brought up how...if the film still lingers in your mind even hours after watching it, something must have been done right. I couldn't agree more with this mysterious forgotten director but Faults sure did linger.
Faults contains outstanding and captivating performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser who deliever a funny yet serious story that by the end you'll be glad you sat down and watched it.
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