Set deep in Appalachia, “Them That Follow” tells the story of Mara (Alice Englert), a young woman preparing for her wedding day. Mara’s got a lot more than floral arrangements and politically divided family members to worry about. She’s been raised in an isolated community of serpent handlers, an obscure sect of Pentecostals who worship poisonous snakes during church services. And she’s discovered a secret about her father’s church that’s put her entire worldview into question.
A trailer just dropped for the Sundance pic, and it sees Mara pressured to prove herself before God by participating in a ritual with a venomous snake. “The serpent will purify you,” she’s told. “The serpent will cleanse you. Come on and get clean.”
“[Our story begins] in one of these unseen communities where we imagine not only what it means to be set apart from the world, but what that means for a young woman to grow up in such a narrow space and be forced to reconcile faith and doubt, knowledge and instinct, this life and the next — all to come of age,” co-writer and co-director Britt Poulton told us.
Poulton drew inspiration from her own life. “Growing up in a religious home and community wasn’t easy for me,” she explained. “My family has belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for generations, and has meaningful ties not only to the Mormon religion but to Mormon history. That was the lens through which I saw everything as a child. It literally framed my existence. So when it came time for me to carve out my own identity and my own value system, as all young people endeavor to do, I really struggled,” she recalled.”Every choice I made, every need I tried to satiate, I had to not only consider repercussions for myself but for my soul. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young person.”
It was that “pressure” that she wanted to explore in “Them That Follow” — “the journey of a young woman as she writhes against these constraints, as she comes to define her life and her faith on her own terms.”
“Top of the Lake,” “Beautiful Creatures,” and “Ginger & Rosa” are among Englert’s previous credits.
“Them That Follow” hits theaters August 2. “The Favourite’s” Olivia Colman and “Booksmart’s” Kaitlyn Dever co-star.