Trinity (2016): Surreal and Haunting Imagery (Review)

Sean Carmichael as Michael

Written and directed by Skip Shea (his first feature length film) Trinity is a movie about sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and its aftereffects. Michael (Sean Carmichaelis an artist who does portraits of the dead using their ashes. He bumps into his abuser; Father Tom, (David Graziano) at a local coffee shop. This prompts the remainder of the film which is a surreal trip of vivid and haunting imagery. 

The journey is, in itself, cathartic and revealing. Shea shows us just how many conflicting emotions are hidden in each survivor of sexual abuse by a trusted member of the church.

Trinity, the title of the film, refers, obviously, to the “holy trinity” taught by the church. “The Father, the son and the holy Spirit (or Ghost)” which must be believed in by follows of the Catholic faith. The term could also refer to the three acts in the film. It could also make reference to the triangle that exists between Michael, Father Tom and his mother (Played brilliantly by veteran horror actress Lynn Lowry).

It it the latter instance where Shea shows how deeply wounded Michael is by his encounter with Tom. In the scene, Michael, as an adult, is pushed toward the father. Prior to the “passing over” his mother kisses him suggestively several times. This clearly indicates that Michael feels just as violated by his mother as he does Father Tom.

The entire film owes much to the French filmmaker Robert Enrico and his 1962 film Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. A short film, shot entirely in black and white, it loses none of its haunting beauty or message even today.  

Shea is not aping the film. He is, however, utilizing a similar technique of storytelling. It works brilliantly in this instance. One event triggering another which in turn triggers more and more occurrences, memories and emotions. Enrico’s film is not as in-depth as Shea’s offering but the feeling is the same.

Haunting, most surely. Surreal, most definitely. An uncomfortable, sad, angry and horrible journey faces the protagonist. There are moments where Shea shows us that Michael feels ill equipped to deal with the torturous memories and pseudo explanations offered by those who claim to help.

As shot by cinematographer Nolan Yee (Who also shot the superlative “A Life Not to Follow” and was the DP for Shea’s award winning short film Ave Maria.) the film itself is stunning to look at. The imagery, the subdued and bright lighting, that is used to accentuate the various scenes is nigh on perfect.

Sean Carmichael as Michael does a smashing job as the outwardly calm, serene artist whose internal dialogue borders on the insane. After being triggered by his chance meeting with the priest who sexually abused him, the artist takes a dark and disturbing trip down a sour confusing rabbit hole.

Carmichael is also a fascinating character.  His personal choice of tools to create his portraits, the ashes of the subject is beyond bizarre and yet, oddly, it makes perfect sense.

David Graziano (a personal favorite) oozes a sort of filthy aura masked by his false jocularity and sincerity. Once again, there are clues about how each main character in this story see themselves. When Graziano, as Father Tom, speaks with his now grown victim, he looks down making eye contact with the artist’s lower chest. It is clear that the clergyman still sees   Michael as the boy he abused. 

Kudos to Beatrice di Giovanni who played Beatrice in the film. She manages to be captivating and endearing while playing her part on the story. 

Lynn Lowry manages, in the scant moments she is in the film, to show why she is an award winning actress still very much in demand.  Lowry manages to convey a range of emotions with little more than a glance and those kisses.

Poster for Trinity

Trinity is a full 5 star film. Everything that Shea does here meshes together perfectly to show the inner workings of the grown victim. The overly loud music, which serves to disorient the viewer (in sympathy with the protagonist) does not drown out the dialogue but filters it instead. A masterful touch that many filmmakers have yet to learn.

The film is currently on the festival circuit. Skip tells us that Trinity has been seen in a total of 19 festivals has garnered four awards. The film has picked up Best Director at the Amazon Undergound Film Festival (Brazil), Best Editor at the Arte Non Stop Festival in Argentina, Best Actress for Lynn Lowry at the HorrorHound Film Festival (USA) and Best Special Effects for Phil “Skippy” Adams at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in Italy.

Shea also revealed that this film was the result of his own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

Trinity Trailer from Skip Shea on Vimeo.

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Author: Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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