By Robert Linsley | Drama
A local cop uncovers a disturbing truth about a strict Christian family's missing daughter.

The Devlin family lives on a remote farm in Australia, left alone to live an existence based upon the most important thing in their lives: God.

But when their eldest daughter disappears, a local cop’s arrival ruptures their carefully isolated world. His investigation unearths disturbing aspects of the family, but the truth is much darker than anyone imagines.

Writer-director Robert Linsley’s powerful and disturbing drama focuses its meticulous, precise sense of craft and storytelling on the nature of religious fanaticism, and its insidious influence on the most intimate and personal aspects of a family and human being.

It begins with a remarkable sense of economy and mystery, with little dialogue and explicit information given by the pared-down writing to guide the viewers. Yet the striking images — washed out in color, sweeping in motion yet precise and almost rigid in their sense of composition — are rich with meaning and implication. This family’s world is ordered by its adherence to religion, at the cost of love, connection and intimacy. In the place of these elements are pain, punishment, isolation and the sacrifice of anything resembling familial affection in service of a punitive God.

The arrival of the police detective moves the story forward, and his search for answers moves us deeper into this strange, ominous world. As the film’s beacon of normality, viewers can see that what he uncovers is disturbing and horrific, and distinctly disordered.

The film’s range of performances also reflect this: as the detective, actor Sam O’Dell has the facile and ease of a modern world, but his opposing counterparts — led by actors Gary Sweet and Alison Whyte as the Devlin parents — seem to exist in another old-fashioned, strangely constrained story entirely. The chasm between the styles works well here, especially as the forces that each side represents clash against one another.

As the narrative momentum moves forward, “Ritual” gains in speed and suspense, working its way into a finely wrought ending sequence worthy of thriller status. There’s even a subtle yet stunning reveal that may prompt viewers to re-watch, searching for clues that the elegantly sculpted writing carefully tucked away in plain sight.

But even as it picks up in tension, the film’s richly conceived world and atmosphere guarantees that the film’s central concerns and questions are never lost. What is the role of religious belief, and what kind of influence does it wield on human lives, especially when those lives are stripped bare of anything else? The answers teased at here are disturbing, but are in perfect alignment with the film’s considerable aesthetics — and resulting in a remarkable unity of thought, emotion and atmosphere that makes for intelligent, compelling storytelling.

You Might Also Like:

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


By Christophe M. Saber | Comedy
A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse.

The Landing

By Josh Tanner | Sci-Fi
A man uncovers the horrifying truth of what landed on his childhood farm.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying (Sundance)

By Stefanie Abel Horowitz | Drama
A woman thinks about dying. But a co-worker asks her out.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Sci-Fi
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Drama
A young father who is cut off from his son takes matters into his own hands.


By Kaveh Mazaheri | Drama
An Iranian woman's husband has an accident at home... and she just watches him die.

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Romance
An elderly man is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Lost and Found (The Oscars)

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.


By Joe Gillette | Romance
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.

Garfield (Sundance)

By Georgi Bank-Davies | Romance
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy.

Partners (Sundance)

By Joey Ally | Romance
A couple's sex life is in a slump, forcing them to reconsider the relationship.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man works in a food truck, across from a brothel with a girl who needs his help.

Long Branch

By Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart | Romance
A young woman finds a one-night stand. But he lives 2 hours away via public transit.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.