Faults is summarized as being the story of Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who joins a cult called ‘Faults’. Claire’s parents, desperate to get her back into their family, hire Ansel Roth (Leland Orser), an expert on cults and mind control. Even though that is what drives the plot, the movie focuses more on Roth himself, who wavers between desperation, a man on the edge of his own destruction, and unusual tenderness from the same man who tries to define himself by helping the parents with their daughter. The cast list is small and the actors not widely known. However, the very different performances by the two actors are nothing short of inspiring and that’s what makes this movie such a gem.
When the viewer first meets Ansel Roth, the mind control and cult specialist, he is trying to cash in a voucher he has already used for a free meal at the hotel where he was scheduled to speak. Upon explaining that the voucher is not good for more than one meal, the manager learns that Roth has no money to pay his bill, and tries to forcibly remove him. Roth fights, pouring ketchup onto his plate to eat with a fork, and tries to grab the sugar packets, clearly trying to get all that he can before he is physically kicked out. His tragedy deepens when he learns that he no longer has a paid night stay at the hotel and he returns to his room, loads his suitcase with hotel towels, toiletries and even the battery from the remote control and leaves to sleep in his car.
His speech at the hotel is met with disinterest and derision, especially from one man who feels that Roth got his sister killed, and brutally attacks him in front of the conference, while onlookers watch apathetically. From there, Roth tries to carry out an ill conceived suicide attempt by sucking at the exhaust pipe of his car in the hotel parking lot. Although it doesn’t seem like it from the description, “Faults” is actually a comedy, albeit a dark one, that surprisingly creates laugh out loud scenes while maintaining an essential atmosphere of desperation and embarrassment.
After the conference, Roth is approached by another man in the hotel parking lot, who works for Roth’s manager, and it becomes clear that the mind control expert is struggling with money issues after his second book was a staggering failure. As a result of this meeting, Roth agrees to help the two parents reclaim their daughter from the cult. He hires two thugs to kidnap Claire and brings her to a hotel where he strives to disprove the essential truths of the cult, gain Claire’s trust and help her to return to who she was before the cult got a hold of her–even though she was a self described weak, pathetic person before she found the group.
After Roth spends the first day with Claire, it begins to show that it isn’t the woman that needs saving, but rather Roth himself, and the woman may be the one to help him. Claire is gentle with him and becomes a sort of caregiver, shifting the action and allowing the viewer to see that the storyline that was originally presented is no longer what the movie is about. Ultimately, it is the relationship between Roth and Claire that drives the movie forward, until finally the viewer is allowed the enlightenment that Claire attempts to reach in the cult.
Altogether, Faults is a beautifully quiet movie, which begins in near silence and creates an atmosphere for the viewer throughout the film’s entirety. The imagery is captivating and the storyline just convoluted enough that you can’t stop watching even if you aren’t sure that everything will end up okay in the end. To add to the mood that is so cleverly created, the camera angles are unique, and throughout the film the camera focuses on parts of the entire image — hands as someone talks, bright spots of blood on a dingy tile floor, which reinforces that it is the details that are important in this film. If you are looking for a step away from the action blockbusters in theaters right now, add Faults to your Netflix queue, because you will not be disappointed.