This is probably one of the hardest documentaries I’ve ever watched, it really does hit you like a punch in the face and almost from the outset. I can honestly say this film had me deep in thought, uneasy, laughing and crying, and that’s what a movie should do. Unfortunately this subject matter shouldn’t even exist for it to be brought to people to understand through film.
This is an intimate journey alongside the family and friends of a man who has been subject to years of sexual abuse by the locally trusted Catholic Priest. It shows his attempts to come to terms with what has happened and how it affects him in later years, and not just him but his wife, his children, his family and friends, and even the others who have been abused in the past. It’s one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in recent years.
TWIST OF FAITH follows the intimate psychological journey of Tony Comes, a firefighter from Toledo, Ohio, who survived years of sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest…
…A proud Catholic all his life, Comes decides to report his abuse to the person he has been taught to trust the most, his bishop. But when the bishop isn’t completely honest with him, Tony files a lawsuit…
…As Comes grapples with anger, guilt and confusion, the film shows how the effects of his abuse entangle everyone with whom he shares an intimate bond: his wife, children, extended family, friends and ultimately, his God…
…Comes does everything he can to hang on to a lifetime of Catholic traditions, despite his ongoing pain and the deceit of Church leaders. The result is a riveting drama of one mans struggle to overcome a profound trauma in the face of intense family, community and religious pressures.
I thought it best to include these few passages from the Twist of Faith Press booklet as it simply and effectively tells you what to expect from this documentary. From the beginning it’s a hard film to watch, but it’s a film you really should watch. It challenged my preconceptions and stereotypes, and made me see how far reaching this trauma can carry.
The story introduces us to Tony Comes who was abused by his local priest when he was younger. He had told the local bishop who had assured him this had never happened before. However, when he discovered it had and that he was lied to, and that the priest is now living just doors away, Tony decides to make sure that the truth comes out. Along the way we find how his family and friends have been affected and how he has to deal with the pain in every facet of his life.
I’ve noticed something different in this documentary that doesn’t seem to carry with others I’ve seen to date, and that’s in its determination to keep track of the focus of the story, Tony Comes, and yet it manages extremely well to show the effect to so many around him. The stories, attitude and confusion of so many other people are brought clearly into the film without taking away from his story, or dropping the focus from the pain and torment that is going through his life. It does manage to present a startling picture of how so many are affected by the sexual abuse of a person, and how the memory follows someone through their life all the while eating away at them at every single moment and through every single thought.
It doesn’t preach, or seem to angle events towards illiciting an effect from the audience for some social change or promotion of anger against the Church. What it does do, clear and simply, is show the Comes family story. It seems to carry no agenda other than to make sure you leave that seat knowing what happened.
The movie is superbly edited. To imagine that the makers had so much footage and edited it down to a manageable amount that could keep Comes story focussed and strong despite breaking off to tell the tales of his friends and family, and still retain the close feeling of intimacy of the whole piece, is remarkable work.
So many times documentary films can become something else, lose sight of what they were meant to truly be about or just dilute their message with cinema, whereas this film has exploited the medium to the utmost. It has successfully presented Comes story in such a way as to grab the audience and ask them why this has been allowed to happen, taking you to the window of these peoples lives and letting you look inside to see what harm has come to these real people.
For me, this is what this movie is about. It takes you into the heart of Comes and his family and forces you to face things that you would not normally want to see, but have to be seen. You don’t want to know that people are abused, especially by those that some hold so sacred, and you don’t want to see the pain and suffering that travels throughout the families affected.
It also takes you straight into Comes circle of friends, indeed during the scenes in Comes truck or at his home, when the camera was simply with him, I would forget that I was watching the recording of a camera and really feel as though I was sitting in that cab listening to him. By the end of the movie I held a sense of knowing Comes and his Wife, not in the sense of a friend would, but in that they are real genuine people, and their warmth and compassion came through so easily on screen, something I found incredibly emotional to watch at times.
There are a few truly hard scenes, watching the Comes at the marriage guidance counsellor, and the scenes of the slow collapsing of their marriage; his struggling with his understanding of who he has become and of what he could or could not have done when he was young; his wife’s struggle to reach her husband; the moments when he explains to his daughter what is bad about letting strangers touch her and why her Daddy is acting so differently just now. Yes, it is painful to watch, very upsetting and it will make you cry, but there is a lot of good to be had out of this film.
For one there is the amazing quality of faith found in humans. For me this was the hardest part, how Tony could contemplate anything to do with the Church after these events is beyond me, I even shouted at the screen for him to “wise up”! Not being a believer of Church or any organised religions, I found this particularly hard, but I saw the positive affects on the family and the strength it gave them. This was something unique and quite amazing.
Another moment, and something that the film showed me about myself, was when Tony’s young daughter has gone to bed and he walks in to settle with her and hold her for comfort. My thoughts were uncomfortable and nervous, and yet this was a moment like any other between a Father and Daughter. A particularly powerful moment for me that demonstrates what Tony himself says when he talks about when and how often the memories of the past affect him.
Above all, it showed that you should not keep quiet about events in the past, and you shouldn’t stand by when others commit crimes against people and cover them up for anyones sake. If this film tells us anything, it’s that the act of silence in itself is a crime and that those who knew the priest was responsible should have stood up, taken responsibility and acted. Instead the burden was left with this poor young boy who has grown to be a strong but troubled man. Regardless of this movie, I applaud him and his family for where they are today, and I wish them all the peace in the world.
I urge you to watch this documentary. It’s one of the most powerful I’ve seen, and it tells an often sad and painful tale that is happening all too often in our lives today. Yet it does come out with some profound and wonderful moments of human existence, and it shows what a great family the Comes are, and in particular Tony and Wendy.
Check out the Twist of Faith official site.