Three Christs

Image from Three Christs film
Three Christs is the latest feature from co-writer and director Jon Avnet with an all-star cast including Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins, and Bradley Whitford. A doctor at the Ypsilanti State Hospital treats three paranoid schizophrenics who each believe they are Jesus Christ.

Will the real Slim Sh Jesus Christ please stand up? Based on true events, Three Christs follows an experiment conducted at the turn of the 1960s to cure three schizophrenic men of their delusions of being Jesus Christ. The experiment brought them together in a single living space with regular meetings and events in the hope that each might realize that there can only be one Jesus, and ultimately neither man could be him. The study was met with concerns as to the morality of the lead psychiatrist’s actions, regularly faking letters to the patients and manipulating them in dishonest ways to coerce changes in their behavior along with the general distress the men experienced throughout.

There can only be one Highla Christ. With source material based on an incredibly interesting case study, the script for Three Christs never seems to entirely engage. The characters and stakes all feel surface level, and the audience is never given enough to become at least sympathetic to anyone or anything throughout the story. There isn’t any stress or anxiety that the study could be shut down, and any breakthroughs or significant moments don’t feel rewarding. It’s a very passive experience. Even with a surprisingly stellar ensemble, nobody gives any kind of significant performance. The one exception is Charlotte Hope who begins to standout as the story progresses, and impressively while not necessarily given the meatiest role continues to bring something special to each frame she inhabits. Of all the heavy hitters here, Hope is the MVP. Richard Gere as Dr. Stone gives a performance more in line with the character’s name; and Dinklage, Goggins, and Whitford who play each of the patients certainly have very specific characteristics and mannerisms but aren’t given much chance to dive deeper and portray more than what’s written on the page despite some scenes trying to allow it. These three are putting in the work that they can, but it seems the writing might have held them back more than anything.

I am Spar Jesus of Nazareth! There’s a feeling of uncertainty or amateur within a lot of the framing throughout. Too many times shots aren’t composed with any sort of basic grace, and there are questionable edits that almost feel like they’re working around lack of coverage. This isn’t an incredibly difficult piece to photograph, with most scenes occurring inside well-lit rooms and all the character blocking being fairly minimal if not static much of the time, yet most of what we see is entirely uninteresting and works purely to get the job done. And maybe that’s the feeling for the entire production as a whole.

Three Christs has all the right ingredients but fails to be properly prepared.
It turns out fine, but there was certainly something more appetizing in mind.

Watch Three Christs in select theaters or via Amazon (starting January 10, 2019).