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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Secrets and Sins
by Betty Jo Tucker

Why would a 10-year-old girl be obsessed with finding redemption? The Last Sin Eater, a fascinating drama set in 1850s Appalachia, tells the story of a troubled youngster like this. She’s Cadi Forbes, who harbors deep feelings of guilt over the death of her little sister. Cadi’s search for forgiveness takes her on a perilous journey and brings her face-to-face with a fearful creature called the Sin Eater as well as with a dedicated man of God who helps her discover the truth about redemption. Along the way, Cadi also learns a disturbing secret about the Sin Eater -- one with powerful implications for the Welsh-oriented community in which she lives. 

This extremely well-photographed film establishes a compelling “you are there” atmosphere. It also boasts impressive performances by children and adult actors alike. Liana Liberato, who plays Cadi, is a real find. Because of the intensity and vulnerability she projects, I worried about what would happen to her character throughout most of the movie. And, in the role of Cadi’s protective teenage friend, Soren Fulton excels at displaying concern and eagerness to help.

Among the adults, Henry Thomas and Stewart Finlay-McLennan stand out. Thomas (I Capture the Castle and E.T., of course) portrays the man of God who offers Cadi the key to redemption. He’s quite convincing here, and my heart went out to his character in a brutal turn-the-other-cheek sequence. Finlay-McLennan (National Treasure) offers a ferocious performance as Brogan Kai, a hard-nosed man with an uncontrollable temper. Surprisingly, he’s much more frightening than the Sin Eater (Peter Wingfield)! As a helpful elderly neighbor, veteran actress Louise Fletcher (Aurora Borealis) manages to steal her few scenes without much effort. And, last but not least, playing Cadi’s parents, A.J. Buckley (The In Crowd) and Elizabeth Lackey (Mulholland Drive) give us a believable -- and excruciating -- glimpse into the tragedy of losing a child. Although the Welsh accents of most cast members are sometimes difficult to understand, their emotions ring true.           

During the first half of the movie, The Last Sin Eater focuses on Cadi’s search for the Sin Eater. After witnessing the ritual he performed to take away her grandmother’s sins during the woman’s funeral, she wants to him to do the same for her -- but while she’s still alive. Unexpectedly, when these two meet, we wonder who bears the most torment, and we can’t help feeling sympathy for each of them. The rest of the film deals with Cadi’s changed beliefs as a result of meeting a dedicated man of God and the revelation of a dark secret involving the Sin Eater’s origin.         

Based on the award-winning novel by Francine Rivers and directed with great care by Michael Landon Jr., The Last Sin Eater doesn’t skimp on either inspiration or suspense. I found it an unusual and highly satisfying movie experience.       

(Released by Fox Faith and rated “PG-13” for thematic elements and some intense sequences of violence.)

Listen to Betty Jo's interview with Henry Thomas by clicking here.

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