Father Peter (Colm Meaney) is a man of the cloth performing his nightly duties to close his church when Victor (Stephen Moyer) bursts through the door. Victor is gut-shot and gun-toting. He demands that Peter lock the doors and turn out the lights. Someone is coming to get him, and sacred ground won’t deter them. A criminal and a priest finding common ground isn’t exactly a new idea, but writer-director David Beton uses it well in Confession, which plays with tropes to tell a compelling small-scale story of two men with secrets known only to God.
It helps that Meaney and Moyer are well-committed to their roles, particularly as twists in the story start to reveal different aspects of their history that directly affect the present. Father Peter starts to tend to Victor’s physical wounds, and the two strike up a rapport that lets them start to talk openly about the scars they carry inside them. A third party stalks them from the shadows, of course, just to keep the action moving along. Allegiances change and choices are made and … it’s a very vague way to describe a plot, I know, but the film runs just over an hour and moves quickly. In this day and age, it almost feels like a bottle episode in a longer series of stories about either Father Peter or Victor, both characters who clearly have lived through a lot and perhaps have more to live through after this night ends.
With only two locations (both inside the church), Beton does a good job taking advantage of the space. He covers the traditionally comforting church features — stained glass, for instance, and pews — with a darkened, foreboding atmosphere. Churches usually imply some level of life, but this one represents a dead space. Victor seeks redemption, but so does Father Peter, and neither is really sure how to achieve it until the moment they find a path to it together. It isn’t until the end that Beton lets his house of worship fill with light.
Given the small cast, it’s natural that the film is dialogue-heavy. It could function, with some modification, as a short play. Audiences seeking violence and action might be disappointed; this is a performance-focused piece that does its best with what it has. Meaney and Moyer carry it, with the assist from cast members whose characters are best left unrevealed in a spoiler-free review. The twists are all coherent with the characters and what we learn about them. Maybe a two-man tale set in a darkened church over the course of one night doesn’t sound appealing in a world filled with large-scale action epics, but Beton’s writing and directing pull it off and make for a convincing and engaging little thriller.