The Good Shepherd
starring Christian Slater, Molly Parker, Gordon Pinsent and Stephen Rea
screenplay by Brad Mirman
directed by Lewin Webb
I liked this film, but it is not the kind of movie for everyone. In the first minute I knew that it was filmed in Canada, because I recognized a Canadian historic landmark plaque in front of a church in the opening sequence. But I thought it was Montreal. It turned out to be Hamilton, Ontario, and I feel shame for not recognizing the city since I spent two years there in graduate school at Hamilton’sMcMaster University.
It is a murder story well crafted to mould itself to the issues dogging the Catholic Church today: gay priests, celibacy, substance abuse within the Church and public accountability of Church operations. It raises intriguing questions about the ethics of the confidentiality of the confessional in crime situations. And that is the catalyst of the story. A priest knows information about a crime that he cannot divulge. Because he does not divulge it he is jailed as a murder suspect. The Church hierarchy moves quickly to disown the (innocent) priest, distance itself from the matter and effectively cover it all up. Christian Slater, a priest and Church bureaucrat rather than a parish pastor, is enlisted on this Public Relations cover up mission, but he doesn’t agree with it, finds himself sympathizing with the accused, and sets about his own investigation at great peril to his career in the Church as well as to his life.
I thought it was a good story that could have been executed much better, either with a different star, or else in a different setting. Hamilton, Ontariois very - I don’t know, blaaahhhh!, a kind of grimy, industrial city. And, Hamilton in winter time, as it was featured in this movie, can be pretty depressing. But that was probably intentional, an atmosphere deliberately sculpted for the story by the director.