Disclaimer: Private screener was provided as part of press release
By Maya Deane
Say Your Prayers is a thought provoking film that tackles themes such as brotherly relationships, guilt, misplaced trust, prejudice and places a twist on the serious theme of religious radicalisation.
Despite the serious topics covered within the film, it is a hilariously dark comedy, with characters that you will love to hate, and hate to love. The chaos that brothers Tim (Harry Melling) and Vic (Tom Brooke) bring to the sleepy town of Ilkeston will have you both laughing out loud and biting your nails, whilst keeping you glued to the edge of your seat. Similarly, the religious theme running throughout the film will have you contemplating the values you hold about certain subjects and groups, as it works to recontextualise unconscious biases that you may hold and place them onto two white men striving to enact “God’s Plan”.
The film follows Tim and Vic’s plan to assassinate a Richard Dawkins-esque character who is due to appear at Ilkeston’s yearly literature festival to talk about his new novel deconstructing organised religion. What was supposed to be a quick visit up North for the pair to take out their target becomes extended indefinitely due to a major case of mistaken identity, much to their dismay.
It is revealed, however, the pair have not concocted their plan alone, and are in fact acting on their adopted father’s wishes, a reverend who has taken issue with their target’s philosophies, perhaps to a deranged level. Whilst the brothers cannot see that they are being grossly manipulated by a figure they trust, the audience can see that they are vulnerable figures who have grown up underneath a “man of God” who has instilled his version of Christianity into the boys, and uses religion to gaslight them into doing his dirty work. Upon my watch of the film, I enjoyed that the reverend was often not referred to by name, and until he appeared was often just referred to as “He”, drawing a direct parallel to the anonymous nature of a higher power/God himself.
Say Your Prayers is an extremely metaphorical film too, often using experimental scenes to imply emotion as opposed to spelling it out for the audience. Tim, the meeker of the two brothers, is shown to see himself as a puppet before he even realises he is being used. Similarly, there is biblical imagery scattered across the entire film, for example a group of three birds appear toward the climax of the film, perhaps to represent the holy trinity. Also, two lambs are shown just prior to the credits rolling, maybe to parallel the innocence of the two brothers – lambs being led to slaughter. Of course, I must mention the inclusion of the male choir, dressed in red, that appear during times of stress for Tim, completely invisible to the characters. I am caught between wondering whether they represent the guilt of the pair, or whether they personify the “holy plan” they are supposed to enact. I highly recommend the audience watch this film and form their own opinion as to what the choir, with their often unexpected, sudden appearances represent.
I cannot recommend this film enough.
From its humour, to its inversion of genre and tropes, to its call backs to slapstick comedy, Say Your Prayers has it all.
You really connect with the two brothers – you even find yourself rooting for them, despite their main objective being murder. The ending will shock you, and may even leave you feeling melancholy. It is unmissable, and provides a deeply complex, introspective take upon religion. Most importantly, it will leave you in a pensive mood once the credits roll.