“The Vessel” reunites Martin Sheen and Terrence Malick (here in an executive producer capacity), although their first collaboration in 43 years is, tonally and thematically, less “Badlands” than the filmmaker’s subsequent “The Tree of Life.” A spiritual fable about a man compelled to shoulder the burden of his community’s grief and hope, Cuban-American writer-director Julio Quintana’s feature debut has an understated formal loveliness that helps offset its more heavy-handed allegorical inclinations. Shot in both English and Spanish-language versions (which, despite a one-minute runtime difference, are otherwise identical), this muted, moving small-scale tale of sorrow and faith will strike a chord with both the churchgoing crowd and aficionados of Malick’s contemplative, theologically predisposed cinema.
In an unidentified Puerto Rican coastal village, residents continue to mourn the deaths of 46 children who, 10 years prior, were swept out to sea when a giant wave crashed into their schoolhouse. In response to this tragedy, women still wear black and refuse to give birth to new kids, and no one attends the church of Father Douglas (Sheen), a white-bearded man of the cloth who, like his congregation, suffers silently, waiting for an inspiring celestial sign. The only person somewhat immune to this oppressive misery is Leo (Lucas Quintana), who devotedly cares for his unwell mother Fidelia (Jacqueline Duprey) — whose mental state went screwy after the tidal wave struck — and who, upon hearing that best friend Gabriel (Hiram Delgado) is leaving town, generously presents him with a refurbished motorcycle.
Read more at Variety.