REVIEW: Miracle Valley (2021)

dir. Greg Sestero

A work whose reputation proceeds it, Miracle Valley draws from American cults and fashions a narrative that is initially interesting, before becoming a bit tired. Following photographer David (Greg Sestero) and his girlfriend Sarah (Angela Mariano) as they journey out to a desert holiday destination and meet up with friends, it starts as a very human drama before proceedings take a turn for worse: for there are sinister goings on, as the couple come into contact with alternative priest Father Jake (Rick Edwards) and the group of people who have gravitated around him.

This could have been a better film, and certainly shows a great deal of promise during its first act. After an effective opening, Sestero (who also writes and directs) builds a palpable tension. Our central couple are initially compelling, with the narrative taking time to explore their demons and tease some pieces that makes one think a more captivating puzzle is being constructed. The film’s at its best when Mariano is the focus, and she manages to keep Sarah suitably mysterious whilst retaining an engaging humanity. And then there’s Edwards’ strange cleric who, at times, is the most compelling part of the story, but his character pings around and seems to change personality between different scenes.

This changeable quality of Father Jake perhaps best represents where this film falls down. For all the work that goes into crafting an engaging mystery in the first half, the film becomes much more ordinary, less convincing and poorly made as it progresses. One aches to like the finished article more, and where the narrative ends is somewhere far less persuasive than where it might have gone.

⭐⭐

Russell Bailey

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