This is a film about child and spouse abuse, and it can be difficult to watch. This is amplified when you remember that it is a biographical film. This film was based on the events of the Roch Thériault Cult Case in Canada.
The overall theme is a battle of the sexes, as the story primarily focuses on the battle between the charismatic but abusive cult leader Roch (Luc Picard) and the strong female social worker Paula (Polly Walker) determined to take him down. The struggle between the two characters is strong, and the ordeals of the many women and children who are caught in the middle add to a very powerful story.
The pace of the story is very nice, and what you would expect. A seemingly happy but non-conformist "family" living in the woods and claiming to have found a better way of life. Some neighbors think they are grand, others suspect that there is something not quite right going on, and still others know for a fact that there is abuse going on but don't take the initiative to come forward.
However, the film also shines a glaring light on the social services... the people who have the job of sniffing out abuse and protecting the victims of it. Not my area...not enough money...everything looks okay...blah blah blah... You feel just as frustrated as Paula does with so many obstacles thrown in her way.
The acting, by the way, was very convincing even in the seemingly unbelievable circumstances. Some of the characters had such extreme emotional turnabouts, it was quite impressive.
This isn't a big-budget film, and it is gritty and harsh in many ways, but it is still a good film that reaches out and shakes up the viewer a bit.
Film information: Savage Messiah