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Sword of Trust (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Sword of Trust


Starring Marc Maron, Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Jon Bass, Tim Paul, Whitmer Thomas, Toby Huss, Dan Bakkedahl, Lynn Shelton, Al Elliott, Tilcia Furman, Benjamin Keepers, Robert Longstreet, Elise Mayfield, T’Darius Murphy, Chris Steele, Elisha Williams and John Winscher.

Screenplay by Lynn Shelton and Michael Patrick O’Brien.

Directed by Lynn Shelton.

Distributed by IFC Films. 88 minutes. Rated R.

As you can perhaps guess by its inscrutable title, Sword of Trust is a sort of difficult movie to explain. A quirky comedy about extremists and conspiracy theorists and four relatively normal people who somehow get thrust into that world, it is sometimes funny, sometimes weird. It sometimes works, sometimes not so much.

The action revolves around the sword of the title – a Civil War-era weapon that some people believe may prove that the South actually won the war.

It’s never quite explained by them why if the South prevailed in “The War of Northern Aggression” the last 150 years of history have occurred without anyone noticing. After all, if the South had won the world should be very different shouldn’t it? If nothing else, the whole freeing-the-slaves thing should be a dead-giveaway that the Confederacy did not triumph, right?

The sword shows up in a small town in Alabama. A sweet, but sometimes surprisingly tough lesbian schoolteacher named Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and her former Israeli soldier girlfriend Mary (Michaela Watkins) go to Cynthia’s hometown on the occasion of her grandfather’s death. As his last living relative, they expected to inherit his house. But that is already gone through a reverse mortgage. The only thing she is left is his pride and joy – the sword.

It comes with papers of authenticity, as well as a long, convoluted letter from Grandpa about how this Union sword was surrendered to the Confederate troops by a General, essentially conceding that the war was over and that the South had won.

The women have no idea what to do with the thing, so they bring it to a local pawnbroker named Mel (Mark Maron), a bit of a con man, but a guy who loves history and ends up keeping many of the things he purchases for the shop for his private usage, just because he falls in love with them. He’s also trying to stay clean and get past his relationship with his recovering junkie ex-lover Dierdre (played by writer/director Lynn Shelton), but Mel still has feelings for her.

Mel doesn’t believe the whole crazy conspiracy story. However, when he looks online, he finds there are hard-core conspiracy theorists who do – and are willing to pay top dollar for relics which help to prove their truth. So, Mel, his assistant Nathaniel (Jon Bass) and the women decide to sell the sword to one of the fanatics, opening the door of his shop to lots of oddballs and toughs looking to get the sword.

The Confederate “truthers” are treated mostly as cartoonish goofballs, which is both defanging and probably underestimating the subculture. In fact, Sword of Truth feels somehow oddly political in the Trump era, despite not specifically being political. It’s a farce that has somehow become more biting due to the state of the world.

However, this film is not a modern skirmish between North and South – though Cynthia has moved away and most of the Southerners assume Mel is Northern (because of his lack of an accent and his obvious Jewishness) despite the fact that he was born in Arizona. It’s just a crazy comedy – occasionally too crazy – about sane people inserted in an insane situation.

Sometimes it is rather funny. As I just said, sometimes it goes too far – I’m specifically thinking of a scene where a redneck with a gun forces his hostages to “dance like a puppet,” but there are a few scenes that dip too far into cartoonishness. And oddly, in that backdrop, there are several parts which are surprisingly soulful and smart, like the conversation during an extended ride in the back of a truck by the four sellers.

As I said at the top, Sword of Trust is a complicated film for what seems on the surface to be a light and goofy farce. I can’t exactly say I really liked it a lot, but I am glad that I saw it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: July 26, 2019.

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