Jeff Nichols—writer-director of down-to-earth dramas like Shotgun Stories and Mud—branches out into science-fiction. Not the flashy, expensive kind, mind you, but the Jeff Nichols kind: thoughtful, meticulously composed, set on a personal scale, and starring Michael Shannon. Shannon plays Roy Tomlin, a Texan fundamentalist cult member whose light-sensitive 8-year-old son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), has certain awe- and reverence-inspiring powers of a Spielbergian nature. The sect (pastored by Sam Shepard) treats the boy's spouts of gibberish as scripture, and the NSA (represented by Adam Driver as a dogged, curious agent) wants to know how this gibberish contains government secrets. Roy, his faithful friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and the boy's mother (Kirsten Dunst) want nothing but Alton's safety as the date of a foretold spiritual event approaches. Once it's all laid out, the story is simple, almost to a fault; don't expect to be surprised by much. But Nichols reveals details skillfully, weaving an intriguing narrative out of an ordinary one. This deft storytelling and sincere, plainspoken performances—all beautifully captured by cinematographer Adam Stone—let Nichols harvest much wonderment from his ordinary, extraordinary tale.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Producer: Sarah Green, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Glen Basner, Hans Graffunder and Christos Konstantakopoulos
Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Sean Bridgers, Dana Gourrier and Paul Sparks