Reviewed by Stacy Yvonne: Imagine you own a party boat company where you take groups of kids out to the ocean to dance, get drunk and have fun. You get a new order, though this time it isn’t for kids, and they’re offering a whole lot of money to get taken near a place that you’ve been through before, but something about this time seems different.
Whether it’s the fact this is a group of scientists who are studying something so secret they make you sign an NDA before telling you anything, or it’s the coincidence that the only person available to charter this last-minute voyage is a man-obsessed with religion and finding God. On their own, these events could seem harmless, but together with an unknown phenomenon that the group seems to be heading towards? Well, let’s just say, it might be a good night to call in sick.
Buffalo 8’s Immanence is a film about the true connection between scientific belief and Christian fate. It’s also a supernatural thriller about the existence of God or HEB’s or “Highly Evolved Beings” aka aliens”. It’s also a story about a man with a rough history trying to reconcile his past. It’s also about a woman trying to find her place between her mother’s staunch beliefs and the assurance of the scientific method. It’s all of these films in one and for being an indie with a smaller budget, it doesn’t do a bad job of juggling these multiple themes.
When the film opens we meet Jonah (Michael Beach) as he sits in on an exorcism. We learn that in his free time, Jonah has been on a mission to find “the real thing”. At that moment we don’t know exactly what that refers to, but it appears to be important as we switch over to Naomi (Summer Bellessa) who is listening to her mother praying with equal parts disdain and reverence.
Naomi is part of a group of astrophysicists who commandeer a boat from Davis (Eugene Byrd) to follow an anomaly that could point to extraterrestrial existence. Jonah acts as captain of the boat and sees that their situation has presented an interesting opportunity. While the scientists see the astronomical anomalies as possible signs of intelligent life, Jonah sees them as more of a beacon, perhaps calling him back to relive an experience he’s been chasing for years.
The term “immanence” in the case of the film refers to the dominion of God over man, land, and sea. The team becomes stuck just inside the Bermuda triangle where time and reality aren’t as static as they’d like. While their tempers flare as the head of the team, Roman (Anthony Ruivivar) and Jonah bump theological heads. Roman argues that science has more empirical proof and evidence and their search for HEB’s is rooted in fact. Jonah counters with the idea that the search for HEB’s is in itself a search for God.
It’s Naomi who serves as a sort of bridge to let them know they’re not as diametrically opposed as they think. Her experience mixes both her religious background and her scientific training and she realizes they’ll have to work together as their environment becomes more perilous.
Michael Beach is a dramatic force on his own. He’s simply a pro and he’s been acting a long time so his comfort on-screen is a very nice anchor for performances by newcomers. Eugene Byrd offers some much-needed comic relief without derailing the plot or feeling completely incompetent. He knows his job and he knows his ship and he makes himself useful even when he may not understand exactly what’s happening. There are an eclectic group of actors who flesh out the rest of the crew and they’re pleasing enough, allowing you to relate despite the complicated jargon they throw out.
Immanence is an indie movie shot during covid so it’s no surprise that it’s a small cast with minimal locations. These seeming complications actually work in the film’s favor. To play off the theme of isolation-induced sanity, it was necessary to have a good number of people trapped in a still, dark ocean. A lot of the effects are practical and the use of lighting to create mood is done well.
Director Kerry Bellessa guides the film artfully and while you may be able to tell it’s a low-budget film, it never looks cheap. The performances can be a bit theatrical, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you look at the movie as more of a religious-based thriller. There can be something positively campy about some of the performances, and in a way that wasn’t distracting or unpleasant.
There is something to be said about the beginning of the final act. There might also be a devil pig? There’s a situation that the film has been leading up to and for me, it was a bit too on the nose. While it could be seen as necessary, there were some liberties taken with how they got there. However, this small snafu could be seen as justified by an ending that felt earned and really satisfying.
Overall I recommend Immanence for a movie that rides the line between “thriller” and “thinker”. Also to enjoy some great performances, particularly by Beach and Bellessa. This is a movie that, if successful, will inspire conversations so be sure to watch it with a friend.
Immanence is currently available on VOD. Score: 3/5
- DirectorsKerry Bellessa
- ProducersMicheal BeachKerry BellessaSummer BellessaCassandra Jones
- Starring :Michael BeachJamie McShaneEugene ByrdAnthony RuivivarSummer BellessaKasia PilewiczAsenneth del Toro