out of Five
Running time: 120
One year ago, the Welsh seaside town of Port Talbot hosted an all-encompassing contemporary Passion play with over 1,000 members of cast and crew. This film effectively conveys the amazing response the production provoked in its audience whilst running up against some of the limitations inherent in filming theatrical performances.
What’s it all about?
The central story of the Christian faith is dramatically re-told with Port Talbot-raised Hollywood star Michael Sheen playing the Teacher, a local man who reappears with amnesia after being missing for 40 days and nights to confront an oppressive corporation (ICU) with increasing powers.
The action takes place across Port Talbot over three days with the stories and memories of local people interwoven with events from the Gospels. As the Teacher’s stand against ICU escalates, the Last Supper takes place at the Seaside Social & Labour Club, with the Manic Street Preachers leading the entertainment, and once he is arrested on a patch of council estate grass doubling as the Garden of Gethsemane it is only a matter of time before a show trial is held and a terrible punishment carried out.
The film is successful in showing, and to some extent replicating, the powerful experience created by the production. The local elements are cleverly worked into the tale, with the Passover referring to the motorway that was built through the middle of Port Talbot in the 1960s despite local opposition. Sheen’s performance stirs an emotional response, with audience members moved to tears as he is beaten following his arrest. As he carries the cross through the town for hours, thousands line the streets or walk in procession with the Teacher, conveying their renewed optimism for the future.
The sad fact is that the large crowds present throughout the performance mean a great deal of the dialogue is spoken at top volume at the expense of nuance for the screen version. This will no doubt give rise to many viewers wishing they had been there themselves, despite the films ability to successfully depict the fantastic atmosphere created in Port Talbot that weekend.
Whilst not for the casual popcorn muncher, The Gospel of Us is a thought provoking and uplifting film well worth a viewing for anyone with an interest in innovative theatre or a desire to reconnect with the Easter story after an overdose of commercialism and chocolate eggs.
The Gospel Of Us (12A)