Faith-based films so rarely risk digging into anything thorny that it’s worth particular note when one does, and does it with some grace. In 1844 Iowa, free African-American woman and Mormon convert Jane Manning (Danielle Deadwyler) has a dream that leads her to return to Nauvoo, Illinois—where she had befriended Mormon prophet Joseph Smith (Brad Schmidt) and his wife Emma (Emily Goss)—and finds Emma mourning over the just-murdered Joseph. The script by Melissa Leilani Larson flashes back and forth between time frames, and comes up a bit thin in exploring the connection between Jane and Emma that led her to return. But Deadwyler and Goss both turn in strong performances, as the story finds both women wrestling with their status within the young church: Jane realizing that her new faith is not free of racism, and Emma trying to salvage a connection to Joseph that’s uniquely hers, separate from the Saints and Joseph’s other plural wives. Chantelle Squires’ simple direction rarely elevates material that’s best as a two-hander chamber piece, but there’s strong raw material here in two people guiding one another through their mutual disillusionment.
Director: Chantelle Squires
Producer: Madeline Jorgensen, Chantelle Squires, Jenn Smith, Brent Geisler, Jenn Smith, Brent Jorgensen, Madeline Jorgensen, Jon Lear, Dave Adams and Sterling Van Wagenen
Cast: Danielle Deadwyler, Emily Goss, Brad Schmidt and Danor Gerald