Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The key to enjoying "Faults" is to look at it as a mood piece. "Faults" is not just a character study about Ansel (character actor Leland Orser), a desperate self-help guru. And it's not just a black-comedy/thriller about what happened to Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who also produced the film), a young cult victim, after she joined Faults, a secretive religious organization.
"Faults" is a richly-textured movie that concerns the weird space between thinking you know what you're doing, and actually knowing what you're doing. You watch it, and marvel that a film that seems to be about Ansel's dogged attempts at re-integrating Claire back into society is less about story, and more about tone. "Faults" is a mystery that doesn't stop being mysterious once it commits to its schematic finale. Even then, the spell that writer/director Riley Stearns casts doesn't completely dissipate. Stearns's film works as well as it does because he puts you in his characters' shoes, and makes you revel in their disorientation.
"You are free," Ansel distractedly tells a small hotel conference-room-full of disinterested attendants, a line he seems to have delivered a million times before, and is still finding his way into. Ansel's not much of a motivational speaker, but that line rings true. "Faults" is, after all, a movie about potential: you watch and realize that this desperate man's story could easily change course at any moment. Which is fitting since Ansel specializes in "de-programming," an anti-brain-washing process that helps religious cultists to re-assimilate by challenging their zealous beliefs.
Ansel's not a naturally confident man, as we see in the scene where he half-heartedly tries to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from his car--while his car's parked in an open-air parking lot. But his strategy for breaking Ansel down is sound: over the course of five days, Ansel shows Claire that she doesn't need any one thing to define her. She is more than her religion, her clothing, her family, etc.