Apostasy, directed by Daniel Kokotajlo, follows the rupture in a family after they are forced to shun their daughter by the Jehovah’s Witness community. It’s a bold debut which tackles complex issues like faith, family, and duty, and with the backdrop of a disenfranchised Northern England, provides authentic insight into a family fractured by clashing beliefs.
Kokotajlo, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness himself demonstrates skillful narrative structure, a visual style that serves the story, authentic performances and most of all provides a unique insight into this world.
The emotional distance of the characters served as a strength but also a hindrance that gave the film a flat pace and rhythm throughout. The perspective was ambiguous, possibly confused, shifting between the younger daughter Alex and rebellious daughter Louisa, until the middle when we finally follow the most intriguing character, the devout mother Ivanna, played wonderfully by Siobhan Finneran.
From that moment onwards, I was with the character, style, and story all the way till the end. The visual storytelling — although inconsistent at times—was decisive. From the framing, to the dialogue and editing one could see the precision in thought and execution.
The performances also demonstrate Kokotajlo’s precision, they were poignant and painful yet restrained and subtle. Siobhan Finneran’s the most mysterious and intriguing of all, the kind of doubts and questions I love to contemplate leaving the cinema.
Technically, it was a visual delight. With clear influences from Ida through its top-heavy framing and visual references to divinity, the cinematographer Adam Scarth clearly flourished in this collaboration creating moments reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting. It was understated and stunning.
This is one of the strongest debuts I’ve seen come out of British cinema lately—it was confident and despite its flat pacing, it gave me a director with vision and style. Not to mention it also proves there is more to British realism than council flats—it is a country with diverse stories waiting to be told.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Writer & Director- Daniel Kokotajlo
Producer- Andrea Cornwell, Marcie MacLellan
Cinematographer- Adam Scarth
Production Designer- John Ellis