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Mark O’Brien is best known as a Canadian Screen Award-winning actor (GOALIE, CITY ON A HILL, HALT AND CATCH FIRE, MARRIAGE STORY, and BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE to name a few of his credits), but for THE RIGHTEOUS he wrote the script as well as directing it and co-starring as Aaron. That’s the mysterious stranger who shows up on the doorstep of an ex-priest (played with profound resonance by Henry Czerny) who is burdened with both grief over the death of his daughter, and a crisis of faith of, you’ll pardon the expression, biblical proportions.
I spoke with O’Brien during the Fantasia International Film Festival, after the premiere of THE RIGHTEOUS. There are many things I love about this film, not the least of which is that he chose to film this disquieting story about the past catching up to the present in exquisitely rendered black & white that underscores the shadowy nature of unresolved guilt. Naturally, it was one of the questions I put to him during our conversation. But we started with why he wanted to make a film of such a philosophical film for his first feature as writer/director.
We went on to talk about the inspiration for the scene that introduces Aaron; calibrating a conversation that involves the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse; and using the weather in O’Brien’s native New Foundland as an intrinsic cinematic element.
We finished up with the special bond he forged with fellow filmmaker Justin Chon while O’Brien was simultaneous co-starring in BLUE BAYOU in New Orleans and THE RIGHTEOUS in Canada; being in a theater full of people for the first time since the lockdown; how black & white is “colored”; and why the married couple in the film have strikingly familiar first names.