Duvall's second feature as writer/director charts the backroad to redemption travelled by Pentecostal preacher Sonny Dewey, after he takes a drunken swipe with a baseball bat at his wife Jesse's lover. Fearing imprisonment, he leaves Texas, ditches his car and his identity, and ends up in a small, poor, largely black Louisiana town, where - as 'the Apostle EF' - he sets about building himself a new church and a new life. This is far more than a beautifully observed character study and an authentic, respectful portrait of the South; it's also a thrilling, insightful, uncommonly honest study of religious experience. For while Sonny (Duvall, seldom off screen) is prone to womanising, violent anger and the odd argument with the Lord, and while his preaching style is not without its showbiz tropes, he genuinely believes. Accordingly, the film never patronises or caricatures him, his flock or their faith. The secret of the movie's emotional power lies in Duvall's unforced, witty, profoundly humane brand of realism, and in the intoxicating energy of the church gatherings.
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