Twist of Faith Movie Review

About an hour into the documentary Twist of Faith, Tony Comes tells a dirty joke about priests and little boys. It's a crummy joke, and it's weird to watch him tell it - after all, he says he was molested by a priest when he was a teenager, as do the two men he's casually chatting with. But you want to laugh with them in sympathy -- the wisecracking obviously helps the men bond together and manage their grief. When the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal first came to light in 2002, stories about victims soon blurred together, making it difficult to comprehend the extent of the psychic damage. Kirby Dick's film is a powerful corrective, then: by providing an intimate portrait of the emotional struggle of a single victim, Twist clarifies just how damaging the abuse is, and how easily it can contaminate others' lives.

Dick has a remarkably articulate and self-aware subject in Comes. A firefighter in his early 30s living in Toledo, Ohio, with his wife and two kids, Comes speaks candidly about how the alleged molester, Dennis Gray, brought him and his classmates up to a cottage retreat, plied them with alcohol, and raped them. He recalls Gray's offhand comments about how Comes was the sort of guy who'd screw up a wet dream. "Was this part of some conditioning process?" he wonders. "It screws with you." He's also keenly attuned to the sad ironies that his past has created in his adult life, like the fact that his drive to his therapist's office requires him to pass his old church. His wife, Wendy, was forced to adjust as well; she explains how Comes' past history has forced them to change the way they act in the bedroom, and indeed brought a level of neurosis to nearly everything they do.

Their anxiety escalates in 2002, when they buy a new house. Comes soon learns that he now lives just five doors down from Gray; in a wrenching scene, he tearfully relates his history of abuse to his eight-year-old daughter to explain why he's unhappy in his new home. Encouraged by the stories he's seen on the news, he files a complaint with the Toledo Catholic Diocese, which initially seems receptive to his concerns, but Comes soon feels misled by the church elders, who told him he was the only one claiming to be molested by Gray. In fact there are a number of men, and together they file suit anonymously against the church; soon Comes decides to go public with his complaint. From there the movie becomes less a documentary about wrongdoing in the Catholic Church, and more a study about how much Comes's pursuit of justice wrecks him. Dick's crew spent 18 months following Comes, and by the end he looks weary and drawn, chain smoking, confessing that he has little appetite, and tormented at the prospect of attending his daughter's confirmation.

There's not much of a happy ending here - Gray denied any wrongdoing, the diocese planted its feet firmly, and in 2004 Comes reluctantly accepted a $55,000 settlement from the church. (Both Gray and the diocese declined to participate in the film. Dick did gain access to a video of Gray's deposition, but between Gray's blank demeanor and his lawyer's objections to the relevant questions, it doesn't reveal much.) But whatever harm speaking out may have done to Comes, Twist of Faith makes a convincing case that suffering in silence would have been much worse.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Comments

Twist of Faith Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 2005

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