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Matthew A. Brown,
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Sheriff Wes Clayton is a compassionate lawman and a Mormon bishop in a quiet Mormon community called Brigham. The tranquil town is shaken to the core when a woman from California is found murdered near her car. Clayton, his young deputy, the town's retired sheriff and his shrewd secretary work with an FBI agent sent to investigate. As a civil and spiritual leader in the frightened town, Clayton must serve both justice and mercy to uncover the town's deepest secrets, find the murderer and keep Brigham from ripping itself apart. Written by
Mary Jane Jones
Before Richard Dutcher released the successful missionary feature, 'God's Army,' there was no "LDS cinema" to speak of. Sure Latter-Day Saints worked in Hollywood and the film industry, at large, but no LDS filmmaker had made an LDS film for the LDS market. To that extent, any LDS filmmaker who profits from the emerging (and some say 'already dying') LDS film genre, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Dutcher for taking a huge risk.
Now on to "Brigham City." I read some of the previous comments about this film and can see that some people really misunderstood what this film is really about. Sure, on the surface, it's a murder mystery that takes place in a small Utah town and it seems to showcase the beliefs of the LDS people or Mormons. The first time I watched it, that's all I got out of it too.
Upon watching it a second time however, that this is a film about conflicting ideologies: Acceptance and tolerance of "the outside world" vs. a rejection of it and a desire to stay innocent. On that second viewing, I realized how much of this film really shows Latter-Day Saints or rather some of their attitudes, in an unflattering light.
Dutcher's sheriff is really a close-minded individual who prefers to live a sheltered existence and believes everyone in the town should as well. In many ways, he is the embodiment of many of the people I live around in Utah. Thankfully, many others are open-minded and wonderful people, but there are certainly pockets of Latter-Day Saints who are not willing to acknowledge that evil exists everywhere, even in their own communities. They condemn "the sins of the world" as they see it, but fail to acknowledge the sin in their own lives and the lives of their families. Dutcher's character is a righteous, stoic man, but almost to the point of self-righteousness at times when other members of the congregation are in error.
Other incidences in the film illustrate a certain hypocrisy which exists in the tightly-knit pocket communities. One example is Dutcher seeing a member of the congregation he is bishop over, ordering a drink at the local bar. I don't want to catalog all the situations, but they are there if you look and they parallel reality in the way that so many Latter-Day Saints in Utah rationalize their way out of guilt.
Having been raised most of my life as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints outside of Utah, this hypocrisy is not nearly as pronounced in its non-Utah members, because the need to be different from those you live around and associate with is so much more obvious. These members outside of Utah are continually reminded that they need to be an example of their religion for those not of their faith and do their best to keep the commandments in the church.
This film really could be a metaphor for any tight knit religious community that has a somewhat judgmental attitude toward "the outside world." It doesn't have to be an LDS community that highlights these attitudes, it could be a predominantly Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, Amish or other communities.
Dutcher proves with this film that he really is a master storyteller. I find it ironic that many members of the church in Utah were put off by the PG-13 rating given the fact that its this very attitude the film highlights. Not to mention, that compared to many other pieces of cinema rated PG-13, it is very tame.
And it's too bad that those not of the LDS faith saw it as some sort of missionary tool to convert non-LDS to the faith, which it certainly is not. It's an interesting examination of the faith and what happens when they seek to live a sheltered existence.
The only criticism I have is that when the killer is finally revealed, his/her motivations for killing seem vague and a bit weak. Other than that though, this is a film that deserves a second and third viewing.
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