Roman’s Bride (2010)

Rating: B-

Dir: Michael Paul
Star: Anne Paul, Michael Rennat, Stanley Massey, Lisa Rennat

The product of a severely-repressive and strongly-religious upbringing, Lily (Paul) is damaged goods. She’s torn between her faith, which has denied all love beyond the spiritual, and the obsession with the love of her life, Roman (Rennat). Unfortunately, Roman has abandoned her: worse still, he’s living next door with his new bride-to-be, Angela (Rennat). As their wedding approaches, Lily’s fragile psyche and seething fury collide, in the face of the sin and immorality she now sees in every aspect of the community – except, perhaps, her doting brother Amos (Massey), whose attempts at kindness might just be feeding into Lily’s delusions.

For let’s just say, loony religious fundamentalists and the violence which results, are in no way confined to the Middle East and Islam. Given the right circumstances, Iowa (in this case) can provide just as satisfactory a breeding ground – especially as here, when you are at the intersection of religious morality, sexual repression and rural isolation. Between them, the husband-and-wife team of Michael and Anne Paul wrote, produced, directed, starred in, and basically put this entire film together. While I can certainly see the potential for issues there [I’m not sure I would ever be capable of saying to Chris, “No, you’re doing it wrong. Again.”], it doesn’t seem a problem, and the distaff side delivers a creepy, off-center performance that is certainly disturbing enough to get the job done, and looks the part too.

The rest of the cast are more of a mixed-bag: there’s occasionally a sense that some people are used because they were friends of the makers, though one also sense they are not exactly cast too far from their actual selves, so it doesn’t often grate. There is a mis-step at the end, plotwise, as we wondered why Roman doesn’t make any apparent effort to contact the authorities. However, given what he just went through at the hands of Lily (think Pia Zadora in Butterfly, if you saw that), some kind of trauma-induced brainfart is understandable. While the film doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know – religion can really screw you up, and we do not want to move to Iowa – it’s always nice to have our prejudices confirmed.