A dark, comedic thriller that keeps you guessing up until the very end.
With its tagline, ‘Prepare for one radical weekend,’ Say Your Prayers is incredibly effective at bringing this to its viewers, with 89 minutes of interesting storylines and established characters. The ‘botched murder’ that the film bases its comedy on is instantly struck onto screens, with viewers taken to the idyllic Yorkshire countryside for a intricate, tense, and exciting journey.
Based around a rural literature festival and the wake of an unsolved death, Say Your Prayers follows the actions of two brothers, the police, a priest, a writer, and ‘the world’s most controversial secularist.’ Tim and Vic (played by Harry Melling and Tom Brooke respectively) are forced to hide their mistaken murder while making plans to succeed in taking our their actual target. Labelled as a comedy, the film intricately tries to show the relationship between these two brothers and how they interact with others, as well as exploring the lives of all involved in a shambles of contracted killing. It’s a huge success when it comes to unpredictability as what is constantly expected is thrown away, with more elements added to an already deep and complex story.
Led by Melling and Brooke, the film compiles a stellar cast of British actors who are able to bring larger-than-life aspects to even the smallest of roles. Both leads are sensational at bringing realism to the parts as well as the comedy, with each one experiencing their own internal struggles that they recklessly put aside to protect the other. Derek Jacobi and Roger Allam succeed quite highly as villainy characters, and are able to contract such strong control over others that a viewer might find themselves urged into understanding some of their ridiculous character choices. The uncharismatic DCI Brough, played by Anna Maxwell Martin, is a good contrast to the other more manipulative characters, as her decisiveness and ill-timed gossip emphasises her as a detective that has too many internal problems to be able to solve a crime. This helps keeps the viewer fresh on their toes, aiding in the mystery of who is going to come out well in the forthcomings.
What is interesting about Say Your Prayers is that it’s able to touch on a number of themes without feeling cramped or overextending its resources. It’s difficult for a comedy to bring power, control, religion, and family to the forefront while keeping it realistic and not turning into a joke, which it avoids falling into. The two brothers are forced into Christianity from a young age, and watching their confused and sinful actions take place as a juxtaposition to what they should believe is quite interesting. One of the best parts of this film, however, is its focus and glorification of British culture, with its commentary on destructive radicalism while using the stunning Yorkshire backdrops and soundtrack of an all-male church choir to carry the story into a viewer’s home. On the other hand, unlike what the preposition suggests, Say Your Prayers is not particularly funny, at least in the traditional sense. While there are a few moments that would make you laugh, it gives a viewer more of a tense foreboding feeling, rather than the relaxed laugh-a-minute kind of comedy that is in abundance.
That being said, this is a very enjoyable film that succeeds in creating comedy while providing real characters and connections. Its depictions of people’s personal struggles and the question of morality is kept very real and helps to ground the film, alongside having lighthearted and playful moments. The superb acting and lively plot makes it worth a watch, even if its comedy is more dark than laugh-out-loud.
Say Your Prayers, directed by Harry Michell, is distributed in the UK via Central City Media, certificate 12. It will be released on demand 28th September and can be pre-ordered here.