The Vessel

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It's not hard to figure out why the promotional campaign trumpets "from Executive Producer Terrence Malick" for writer-director Julio Quintana's story of a ruined seaside village where all the women started wearing black (and stopped getting pregnant) after a wave claimed several dozen schoolchildren. (Well, all the women except one: the protagonist's mother, who wears pink but doesn't talk much, especially not to her son.) There is indeed a Malickian air to the proceedings, most notably in the way the camera seeks to draw the eye along with its sweeping swooping motions, and in the excellent use of setting as character. Also in the credence given to spiritual realities, however shrouded in mystery they might remain, however impossible they might be to manage — even by those who make such things their business. But it's more straightforward than Malick tends to be, less swirly and impressionistic, less interior and meditative. Whatever his influences, Quintana has made his own, fine thing: a quietly powerful depiction of what is required to rekindle hope in the hopeless. The film's drama begins when a young man drowns and then comes back to life; when he wakes up, he finds he has a mission. Or at the very least, a job to do. Martin Sheen plays a priest at his wit's end, or perhaps his faith's beginning. (2016) — Matthew Lickona

Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 50 minutes
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