There are a handful of directors for both theatre and film—literally, I can count them on one hand—whose work I trust so implicitly that I don’t even need to know what the project is before being convinced to lay down money and go. If their name is attached as the director, I know it will be something special and I am there before I get there: In full support of whatever it is, 100%.
Garrett Batty is one of these directors. The man has vision and a moral compass. Whoa! Combine that with a strong dose of courage and a great sense of humor, and you have one of the best director’s I personally know. Which brings me to a brief review of his latest offering, “The Saratov Approach,” in theatres October 9th, this year (2013).
Obviously, I had some bias going into the film. I already know and trust Garrett, so I expected a lot from the film. Sometimes, this isn’t a good thing because one may be lead into easy disappointment when the film doesn’t rise to expectations. Such was not the case with this film. It actually exceeded them.
Wa-a-ay back a few months ago, Garrett shared with me a few of his ideas for this film. I was skeptical. There have been too many “Mormon Missionary” stories released of late that— while they begin with the best of intentions—only end up treating some or all of the characters superficially. Either they go too far in the direction of, “See? Mormons are people too,” with overly-flawed characters; or they fall back to the time-honored faux pas of just making it all too perfect, too plastic, and too untouchable.
I’m anxious to know what non-LDS viewers think of this film. For me, I understand—in a very personal sense—the life and attitudes of a full-time LDS missionary. To me, these missionaries and their antagonists felt very real—spot-on—because I understand them in ways no one who has never served such a mission can understand. But what would the general public think?
I love this Q&A on their Facebook page:
Q: Is The Saratov Approach exclusively for Mormons?
A: This film is exclusively for Mormons in the same way that The Bourne Identity is exclusively for spies with amnesia. This is a story about survival, the human spirit coming together to overcome a life-threatening situation. It is accessible to anyone.
Going out on a limb here, I’ll agree with this completely. It’s a true story, first of all. No one can say, “Yeah, but that didn’t really happen.” It did. We have the actual media coverage to prove it. And secondly, it’s a journey. Not a journey of the body, but of the mind and heart: Of several minds and hearts, really.
Though faith is major component, it isn’t heavy-handed. Garrett handles the careful balance of this journey of faith with the skill and finesse of a master surgeon. I never felt as though I was being preached to, nor my intelligence belittled. I came to understand the inner-life of these characters much as it felt they discovered it themselves. Kudos to Corbin Allred, Maclain Nelson, Nikita Bogolyubov, Jen Erickson, and Bruce Newbold for these marvelous performances. Also, a special shout-out to Brett Merritt, whose scene was short but nonetheless pivotal to the film. I believe it wouldn’t have worked without this character and Brett’s memorable interpretation. Excellent work, everyone!
Now, for a brief education of independent filmmaking: It’s difficult—like REALLY difficult—and uber expensive. The trick with filmmaking at any level is to recover the costs of the film. When costs are offset, Hooray! You get to make another film! And with a director like Garrett, believe me, we want him to make more!
So, this is how it’s done: Go see this film IN THE THEATRE the week it comes out: Wednesday, October 9th; Thursday, October 10th; Friday, October 11th; Saturday, October 12th; or even Sunday, October 13th (although I doubt if many will actually go on this day as it’s the Sabbath). DO NOT wait for it to be released on DVD. DO NOT wait to go see it the second week it’s in theatres. If you do, there may not be a second week.
Theatre profits are finicky as all get out. If theatres don’t see a measureable response for a film within the FIRST WEEK of its release—which is actually only half-a-week, as I’ve outlined—they will pull the film so fast it’ll make your popcorn spin.
This film is independent filmmaking at its finest. Please GO! SUPPORT! Lay down a few bucks for some quality entertainment and support more independent films like this. You won’t regret it and it’ll make you feel all warm-‘n’-fuzzy inside… Kind of like a sun-ripened peach.
Wednesday, October 9th;
Thursday, October 10th;
Friday, October 11th;
Saturday, October 12th;
or Sunday, October 13th
WHERE: TBA. “LIKE” their Facebook page for immediate updates as they become available.
P.S.—Oh, Garrett: I expect an audition out of this for your next project. Just so you know. …(Yeah, that’s a winky-smiley-face you just got there. Cherish it, bro.)