Stan's recent post about the Apostasy movie reminded me that I had watched it last month, so I thought I'd write a review. Please note this will probably contain some spoilers so if you care about that sort of thing hold off on reading this.
First I want to say that this is probably one of the most if not the most accurate and reasonable cinematic portrayals of JWs. However here is a list of little inaccuracies: An outdated view that preaching to all the world can 'make' the end come, Jesus briefly portrayed with long hair, judicial reinstatement meetings being called "guidance meetings", a normal weekly public talk being introduced as "the first in a series of talks he's prepared for us", applause at the end of a local needs part, and a JW saying of God "you need to earn His love, it's conditional" ( I know this is basically true in practice but they'd rarely say it out loud). But these are really minimal that only an active JW would notice, and overpowered by the authenticity that makes it engrossing because these things in general really have, are and will happen to JWs worldwide.
The song "Jehovah Is Your Name" was used, without permission of course, but I'm sure it's acceptable as fair use under copyright law, to make it accurate. There's even an imitation JW Broadcasting style commercial, with the earnest, faux down-to-earth American accented announcer lulling in sad folks with promises of cut and dried truths from one source only, and a sure hope for the future only one brand can offer.
Getting past the British lingo which at times might be hard to understand for an American, it's a very relatable story. Music is minimal which also adds to the realism. Some interesting touches are the protagonist thinking out loud during some scenes, as well as the unorthodox choice to unexpectedly switch protagonists halfway through the film, which sounds awkward on paper but works well. Even with the serious subject matter room is found for a little humor in an exchange about rhinos. There is often truth in humor however, and this scene highlights the awkwardness that often accompanies JW's shoehorned efforts to 'witness' coupled with the non-sensicallness of their beliefs. In the scenes involving the mother spouting cliches in regard to everything from 'returning to Jehovah' to 1975 apologetics you may feel your anger rising (I know I did) because it's so typical and real.
The PIMI JWs in the film aren't demonized, but presented reasonably and as humans who are individuals who just happen to be brainwashed. The love-interest in the film like many JWs is both a victim and a perpetrator. A die hard full time servant and new Elder, he is stunted and awkwardly traverses life and courting, but is ready to render judgment on others with 'righteous' authority. The JW mother in the film is very depressing to watch as she reminds me a lot of my own and probably many others, sapping the joy from everything. Her encouragement to pursue courtship with the aforementioned man is based solely on his 'spiritual qualifications', and the recommendation she gives her daughter is, "he's very suitable". Her eyes are glazed over, and no matter how much she's abused by the system, she keeps going back for more, dragging her children down with her.
Two profound moments in the film that struck me were when children were putting on a Bible play of the story of Solomon's test of the two prostitutes to find out who was the baby's mother. Regarding Solomon's ruse, pretending he was about to kill the child, it was said "a true mother doesn't want to see her baby die", and this hearkened to the blood issue, LITERALLY letting your child due, which is a plot element in the story. Another powerful moment was when one character just had to come out and say 'the governing body, they just make stuff up. and people die because of it.'
Truth hurts. The truth about the truth hurts. But ignoring it hurts more. This isn't the whitewashed JW lifestyle of the staged scenarios in official publications. But it also isn't a worst case scenario with over-the-top black-and-white villains. It's a conglomerate of true stories we've all lived through. It's a bittersweet story of losing your humanity to a cult, but by bravery taking it back. This is real. This is happening. And that is the scariest story of all.