No Rest For "The Overnighters" Review

The Overnighters, Jesse Moss's documentary feature, earned many comparisons to The Grapes Of Wrath upon release last year, and at first glance seems to merit them. Its portrait of impoverished Americans migrating to North Dakota in search of work recalls that novel and film's almost Biblical image of California as the land of milk and honey, and its central figure Jay Reinke seems cast in the part of its Christ figure Jim Casey. Reinke, however, is a far darker and more conflicted character than any of Steinbeck's migrants, and the sentences of his trials more ambiguous in their meaning.

For a period of time in the Great Recession, North Dakota led the country in financial growth, owing its good fortune to the Fracking boom. Fracking produces a lot of well-paying work for those who are tough enough to handle it, leading many whose prospects had otherwise run out to travel to places like Williston, where Reinke led a church. The doors are open to all comers (including the homeless and convicted felons, often sex offenders), which causes a good deal of friction with the otherwise stable town. It's hard not to sympathize with Reinke, whose values are as in line with the spirit of Christian kindness as one can imagine, but it's harder not to see that his venture is doomed from the start. Even without the third act game changer that puts his mission into new perspective (though does it really?), Reinke's soul might be as unlikely to find peace as his congregation.


There is an audio commentary with Moss and Reinke, deleted scenes, a follow-up interview with Reinke, a booklet, and a trailer.

"The Overnighters" is on sale February 3, 2015 and is rated PG13. Documentary. Written and directed by Jesse Moss. Starring Jay Reinke.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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