Writer-director Tom Russell takes a long-forgotten piece of Utah history and finds a spiritual drama lurking within.
In 1862, French immigrant Jean Baptiste (played here by David H. Stevens) is caught stealing from about 300 graves in the Salt Lake City cemetery where he works as a gravedigger. The authorities, afraid he’d be killed in prison, instead exile Baptiste to Antelope Island — where his only human contact is Henry Heath (played by newcomer John Freeman), the lawman who arrested him.
In Russell’s telling, Heath must battle his doubts about his faith, forgive and be charitable to Baptiste even though one of the graves he robbed was that of Heath’s young daughter.
Russell enlists some familiar Hollywood faces — including Barry Corbin (“Northern Exposure”) as a judge and Margot Kidder (“Superman”) as Baptiste’s mentally-ill wife — but the real star is the gorgeous scenery of Antelope Island.
Alas, even that’s not enough to keep us engaged through the film’s sluggish pacing.
Opens today at area theaters; rated PG for thematic material, some violence and mild language; 105 minutes.