Sons of Perdition
Directed by Tyler Measom, Jennilynn Merten. STC. 85 min. Doc Soup series screening Oct 6, 6:30pm & 9:15pm at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor W).
Sons of Perdition

The monthly Doc Soup series kicks off a new season with directors Tyler Measom and Jennilynn Merten’s decidedly restrained chronicle of several young exiles from Warren Jeffs’ Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) — the polygamist sect that became headline fodder following Jeffs’ 2007 conviction for arranging illegal marriages between adult men and underage girls.

Greeted, not unreasonably, as a grim real-life flipside to polygamy-themed hit TV drama Big Love, Sons of Perdition ought to be required additional viewing for fans of that show. This is also a morality tale and not a religious one, the implication being that the rejection of Jeffs’ regime has nothing to do with Mormonism or even Christianity. Measom and Merten pull no punches when it comes to portraying the forces back on the FLDS compound as sinister and dangerous — especially for the female exiles and would-be exiles we meet. Yet they display an even hand as they watch the boys, some as young as 15, struggle to fit into mainstream society over the course of a year. While that process seems to require much hair dye, out-of-date street wear and some dabbling in methamphetamine, the filmmakers present their subjects less as rebels than as thoughtful, keenly determined young men edging into a new and unexpected life.

At least one teen, Joe, is so wise beyond his years that his quest to re-establish his family away from the FLDS is both heartening and tragic, though the tragedy is mitigated by interviews with veteran exiles that provide an undercurrent of hope. Sons of Perdition is that rare movie-going experience: an American cultural study that doubles as a testament to individuality’s triumph over sheer creepiness.

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Originally published September 29, 2010