When a young man (Vincent Romeo) emerges from the opening frames of Rebecca Daly’s “Good Favour,” you may have a better idea of where he’s going than he does. Gaunt and underfed with a wound around his torso, he stumbles onto a farming village that would seem to be vacated except for the horses that roam the grounds, but after finding an unlocked door, he quickly learns he’s not alone, with one surmising after he’s brought to the ground by Hans (Alexandre Willaume), one of the town elders, that everyone has likely been in church in the deeply religious community that has taken root in the rural countryside. It is strange terrain to be sure, but undeniably intriguing through the lens of the talented Irish filmmaker Daly, whose third feature is as bewitching as it is mysterious.
Although we come to discover the young man’s name is Tom, he remains enigmatic to both the community and himself, unable to remember what life was like before wandering aimlessly through the forest, remembering that his parents died, but not knowing where, when or how. Despite Hans’ reservations about Tom, particularly as his daughter around the same age Shosanna (Clara Rugaard) takes an interest in him, the community welcomes him because of their deep Catholicism, and as Tom starts to show signs of a civilized upbringing that he can no longer remember – acts that seem foreign to children who are told that the devil resides just outside their village – it becomes a question of who is placing more of their faith in who. Daly is more than content to let this ambiguity linger for much of “Good Favour,” wringing suspense out of whether such belief is healthy on either end.
While it wouldn’t be accurate to describe “Good Favour” as a horror film, Daly tucks enough viscerally chilling moments in, like her debut “The Other Side of Sleep,” to set it apart from most religious dramas, though its most extreme situations are riveting precisely because they’re done out of faith, as well as how skillfully Daly executes them, allowing these eruptions pierce and rearrange the quiet commune she sets up so intricately. Rituals of the sect are fascinating in their detail and the director does well to lean on a cast of strikingly expressive actors to let much of the action play out on their faces, both individually and as a group. Additional jolts come through the mystery beyond Tom’s origins that’s introduced by way of a young child named Isaac who disappeared before Tom’s arrival, leading some – most prominently, Isaac’s mother – to question the leadership of Hans’ brother Mikkel (Lars Brygmann), the township’s chief who is already under fire from his father for not allowing the clan’s ill matriarch visit a proper doctor in the city.
Yet these conflicts still take a backseat to the inner turmoil that Daly and her longtime co-writer Glenn Montgomery stir amongst a community where the man with no name at first begins to carve out an identity from the example set by people rapidly losing theirs. Unsettling to be sure, ”Good Favour” has no such issues in knowing what it is, an accomplished provocation with undeniable staying power.
“Good Favour” does not yet have U.S. distribution.