“Fault is a fracture. It’s a place where pressure builds until it releases.”
Leland Orser and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star together in this unique dramatic thriller written and directed by Winstead’s husband, Riley Stearns. Faults is his feature debut and after this, there is no doubt he’s going to be getting more offers because it is a very inventive drama that feels like no other movie because it changes and morphs as the story progresses. It is hard to classify this film because it doesn’t feel like any other movie I’ve seen. Orser plays Ansel Roth, an expert on mind control, but it is clear that his glory days are long behind him. When we are introduced to him he’s trying to reuse a coupon for his meal at the hotel where he’s giving a speech on his new book about free will. There are very few people who have signed up for his seminar and he’s evidently in deep financial trouble. An opportunity for redemption shows up when a couple (played by Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) ask Ansel to help them with their daughter. They say she has changed dramatically after finding a mysterious cult and that they are afraid of losing her. Ansel tells them that he can help but that it is going to cost them. He plans on deprogramming her by kidnapping her and having a five day session with her at an undisclosed location. The girl’s name is Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and she claims to be at the happiest point in her life so apparently it won’t be an easy job for Ansel who is going through his personal lowest. What follows is a fascinating psychological control study with touches of dark humor and several twists along the way. The less you know about the film going into it the better off you are.
The production team behind Faults is the same one that brought us last year’s The Guest and the reinvented slasher horror film You’re Next so I was already excited about this film. They present unique projects that at times blend familiar genres or include some sort of surprise element along the way. Faults is a low budget indie film but it never ceases to amaze with a production design that sets the film somewhere around the early 80’s although there is no mention of when the story actually takes place. The film is perfectly executed, it has an interesting premise, and the screenplay is beautifully written by Riley Stearns as it transforms along the way. It’s not one of those films that tries to fool the audience and then presents a twist that no matter how many times you go back and rewatch it it simply doesn’t make any sense. Faults isn’t trying to fool us, instead it is simply telling a story that unfolds in unexpected ways as we reach the climactic finale.
Perhaps what stands out the most in Faults are the two leading performances. Leland Orser delivers the best role of his career and it is great to finally see him in a starring role. His character isn’t someone we should really sympathize with considering he’s simply miserable from the moment we are introduced to him. He’s such a loser but somehow Orser manages to engage us and we want him to have his shot at redemption. We believe he actually knows his stuff on mind control and free will but life has given him an unexpected blow that he seems to be able to recover from. On the other hand Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Claire is enigmatic and we never know what she is really thinking. Winstead delivers one of the best performances of her career as well and the two turn Faults into a highly engaging and hypnotic film well worth your time.