When the pandemic hit, speaking from experience, the hardest thing for countless global citizens was—and still is—the isolation of lockdown protocols. Onur Tukel's Scenes from an Empty Church transports viewers to New York City during its closure and to the doorstep of a parish run by Father Andrew (Kevin Corrigan) and Father James (Thomas Jay Ryan). In a time when loneliness meant safety, the two priests open their doors for regulated appointments to help New Yorkers find a smidgen of peace in the religious connections they can maintain. Tukel's not diminishing the science behind everything, either. There's plenty of sanitizing spray, time limits, and rules to conducting prayer allowances as overseen by the two padres.
In this exclusive clip, you'll get a taste of the conversations Father Andrew and Father James undoubtedly have throughout the film as their herd returns one by one:
Anyone familiar with Tukel's independent catalog—from Summer of Blood to Catfight—will recognize the more intimate atmosphere. "If they have a cough, send them off." We get the immediate dynamic between Andrew and James, the latter being entirely more cautious than the former. Banter never downplays the severity of COVID-19 but references one-in rules, time limits, and the reassurance that not even the lord himself would pray for more than ten minutes. It's lighthearted yet aware of the messages it's relaying in terms of communal unity (parallels between Judaism and Catholicism become a theme). As parishioners take their turns, you get a sense of the interactions that might take place.
In addition to Kevin Corrigan and Thomas Jay Ryan, the film stars Max Casella, Paul Reiser, and Annie McCain Engman. MPI Media Group will release Scenes from an Empty Church in theaters and on digital July 2nd, 2021. If the above clip tickles your curiosity, you won't have too long to wait.
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Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.
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