By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The setting is New York City, 2020. The city has been locked down, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pastor has passed away because of the virus, a Catholic church has shut its doors for the time being. Surviving priests Fathers Andrew (Kevin Corrigan) and James (Thomas Jay Ryan) must cope with the world’s latest challenge and with the fears that come with it. Written and directed by Omer Tukel, based on a story by Andrew Shemin, Scenes From An Empty Church tells a moving and vibrant tale of faith, love, and courage during a time that world needs it most.
Filmed during a very scary time, Omer Tukel and the small cast and crew courageously worked on this remarkable movie during a time when most movie projects were either shut down or put on hold. There is definitely something to be said about a small independent film that rises above the usual challenges of budget constraints; however, this movie manages to exist and succeed despite the risks and obstacles that a world pandemic imposes. The result is a beautiful and poignant portrait of people attempting to cope with some extreme circumstances the world has dealt.
The main strengths of the film are the writng and the acting. Omer Tukel and Andrew Shemin has done very well in creating the foundation of a great movie that deals with faith, but is also open to the existence of other beliefs that are very much a part of our world. Though the movie focuses on the perspectives of two Catholic priests, the film also acknowledges non-believers, and those who believe in other types of religion.
The writing succeeds because of the script’s rich character development. As I watched this film, I can easily see this movie be adapted into a wonderful play. Working with the solid screenplay, the actors build on this foundation and take this movie into places beyond. In addition to the outstanding performances by Kevin Corrigan and Thomas Jay Ryan, Max Casella definitely stands out as Paul Ruccio, a childhood friend of Father Andrew who is looking for a personal connection, and a way to cope with the frightening event that has plagued the world. All three of these actors shine brightly and share the perfect chemistry that make this movie feel so real and emotional.
Scenes From An Empty Church is now available for purchase via DVD. As our world and country is now in the midst of another COVID-19 resurgence, perhaps this movie can offer us a glimmer of hope and some much needed love.