Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 12:17 am | A Few Clouds 62º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Get Low’

Aaron Schneider's debut feature-length film communicates the tragedy of a guilt-ridden life and the necessity of forgiveness

4 Stars — Powerful

The prisons we construct for ourselves are far more devastating than those created by others. Knowing that we deserve to be punished, our own guilt isolates us as we deny ourselves love and life, accepting a self-imposed sentence. Even when we are told that telling the truth and asking for forgiveness will set us free, we mistakenly decide that we don’t deserve it. This truth is powerfully presented by director Aaron Schneider’s debut feature-length film, Get Low.

Based on the true story of a Tennessee man who requested a funeral before his death, the film displays Schneider’s obvious experience as an award-winning cinematographer in his visually complex telling of this tale. But the tension of the film is created in the well-written script by screenwriters Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell as they add a deep and enslaving secret sin to the story.

Set in a backwoods cabin on 300 acres of untouched forest, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) has lived for 40 years in self-imposed exile. Because he has little contact with the outside world and has little concern for his appearance, the rumors of who he is and what he has done have multiplied.

Children dare one another to throw rocks at his windows, while adults gossip with one another creating tall tales. Their gossip sets up one of the many memorable lines in the film in which the pastor says: “Gossip is the devil’s radio.”

When the local minister comes to inform him of a friend’s passing, Bush decides he needs to come clean before he dies himself, but that is far more difficult than he imagines. Weaving a complex plan, he asks the Quinn Mortuary owner, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), with his assistant Buddy (Lucas Black), to hold a funeral party for him in which tales of who he is are to be shared, but in which he also plans to tell his own true story.

This awareness that we need to tell the truth about our lives and find forgiveness from those we’ve harmed before we die is true. But what is sad about this tale is that Bush tries to pay for his sin by his self-imposed isolation for 40 years and misses out on the life he could have lived as a forgiven person. Although the secret Bush holds is a tragic sin, his old friend and pastor Rev. Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) had counseled him 40 years earlier to confess his sin and ask for God’s forgiveness as well as the woman he has betrayed, Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek).

That it took him 40 years to do so is sad and regrettable, but that he finally found peace is a powerful message of grace for all of us.


» Although we all do things for which we need to ask forgiveness, have you found it difficult to admit that in your life? What do you do when you realize you’ve sinned and hurt others?

» The decision of Rev. Jackson not to tell Bush’s story and confess for him forces Bush to face the truth about himself and find forgiveness and peace. Have you ever had a pastor help you face the truth and find forgiveness? What was the result?

» Adultery began a ripple effect in Bush’s life that cost two people their lives. Have you experienced betrayal and the ripple effect of its devastation in your life? How did you find peace?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

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