The Overnighters

Directed by Jesse Moss

Starring Keegan Edwards and Jay Reinke

Desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor's decision to help them has extraordinary and unexpected consequences.


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  • ★★★★ review by Joe on Letterboxd

    Starts out as a powerful examination of how true Christian morals like charity and forgiveness can't take hold even in a political climate dominated by "Christianity," but eventually takes a turn that leaves me scratching my head over what this movie actually is about. At first it seems like an attempt to introduce some arthouse ambiguity to a fairly typical left-wing message doc, but after a few bafflingly vague sequences a kind of bomb is dropped and the river changes direction in a refreshingly complicated way. I will say this, though: Hearing about a pastor or minister cheating on his wife or hiring a prostitute never disillusioned me about organized religion when I was a teenager - more than anything, it was when my church posted a sign at the door telling the homeless that they will no longer be providing sack lunches that did the trick. I probably think about that sign at least once a week, and I wasn't even the intended audience for it.

  • ★★★★½ review by Steve Kimes on Letterboxd

    -The Overnighters is the closest movie to my work that I've found. Calvary feels more emotionally resonant and Wendy and Lucy best expresses the lives of the people I serve, but I can't deny the connection between myself and Pastor Jay Reinke. Temperamentally, we couldn't be more different. He's a people-pleaser and I get a rush from conflict. He is concerned with what people think, and I'm more concerned with how people act. As a pastor, I chose to begin my own congregation of the homeless rather than deal with the back and forth of middle class values.

    -Some of the scenes remind me of A Time for Burning, when we have the clear hypocrisy of a congregation (or part of a congregation) and the prejudice of a community. They said that "the church" is "full of sinners", but what I have found is that every congregation has a number of hypocrites who talk about love until it inconveniences them. Any church isn't a spiritual group, but a cultural one and when their cultural core is confronted, then you will find people leaving. This usually means that the church's core was in the wrong place to begin with-- in a biased culture instead of a God of love and sacrifice who calls his people to the same.

    -(Clear spoilers here) The end of the film shocked me, but now I realize that it shouldn't have. I've been involved with a similar ministry and similar stresses for 20 years and that led me to depression, anger, along with some bad choices. I never cheated on my wife, but I have broken the covenant I have with my denomination at times. My wife and I both expressed the regret of the pastor's wife, "What we are doing is important, but I'll be glad when it's over." I have never betrayed my family or forsaken time with them. But the stresses of such sacrificial service cut deep and a chunk of our own souls end up on the altar of such service. I've said that Jesus' sacrifice was difficult, but he ministered for three and a half years, had a really tough couple days and it was over. For those of us who have endured for decades, our very humanity is worn down to the bone, and I wonder if my flesh has paid all that it will pay.

    -The community right now is working on shutting us down. I will be meeting with the city this Friday to discuss our "code violations" for having people stay on the property overnight. Perhaps we will receive a thirty day notice, or we may be fined 6000 dollars a day. But I will not go gently into that dark night, as Pastor Jay did, and as I've seen other pastors do. If they fine us, I will take them to court and they will have to defend why they are fining a church who is doing what a church is supposed to do. Because a church is supposed to meet the needs of their congregation. A church is supposed to serve the poor. A church is supposed to protect their community. And that is simply what we do-- it's just that our community is homeless. If they give us a thirty day notice then they will have to call the sheriff and he will have to lock the doors himself and arrest me and whoever is with me and take me to jail. But I will not stop what I do because of some immoral law. They have to make me stop.

  • ★★★★ review by Michael Loren on Letterboxd

    A devastatingly truthful look at the modern man's search for the "American dream," The Overnighters is one of the more poignant documentaries of the year. Having the courage to ask tough questions to the audience with no easy answers, Overnighters sheds light on an ever-changing capitalist economy, while also examining pervasive issues such as homelessness, religious freedoms, and (SPOILER) sexual identity. Surely there are conversations to be had post-viewing.

    Described as a contemporary "Grapes of Wrath," the film exposes the lengths that individuals (and subsequently their families) go to in order for an opportunity or a work venture. Whether or not you believe what the film's "protagonist" was doing is helpful, harmful, or self-serving, there's no denying the emotional gut-punch that occurs towards the end of the film. I'm not sure if it was serendipity or just a true relationship developed between filmmaker and subject, but what an absolute game-changer for the film's core themes as we discover the personal struggles that the film's central subject has been quietly "suffering."

    How this documentary was not nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award is beyond me, but I would recommend this film as essential, modern American blue-collar cinema.

  • ★★★★½ review by Raul Marques on Letterboxd

    One of the best character's study in a film. Mainly because it was unintended.

    The primary object of investigation of this documentary never ceases to be compelling, but its background surpasses it due to the community's hostility towards the program. Only few movies have a real life-changing epiphany in them. The pastor's belief of the church helping sinners to overcome their problems (that it's obviously reasonable) is discovered to be a resonance of his own errors.

    Overall the doc immensely succeeds in portraying the people, in delicate situation, as being more than their flaws. It's made clear that "they're not their mistakes" and that's something incredibly hard to achieve. Kinsley, specially, could be regarded as one profound anti-hero, and his end is perfectly fitting to the movie's point.

  • ★★★★ review by Armando Maggi on Letterboxd

    This is a complex and overwhelming documentary with a shattering unexpected finale. It is not what one might think it is. It opens as the heart-warming description of a very altruistic and generous Lutheran pastor who opens his church to the numerous travelers coming to North Dakota in search of a job. The 'overnighters' are the many men and women who sleep in the church facility or in its parking lot. The pastor welcomes them with great kindness even if his community and neighbors are against what they perceive his excessive generosity.

    But if you think this is a movie about the fight between a good Christian church and its unsupportive environment you are mistaken. Be ready for some disturbing twists and turns, and a heartbreaking ending.

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