The Errand of Angels, directed by Christian Vuissa

Let me begin by stating that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Yes, The Errand of Angels is yet another LDS missionary film, but eight years after the release of the groundbreaking God’s Army (2000) the genre has matured a great deal. The drama in the film is subtle. No one dies, for instance, or loses their faith, and there are no gang members terrorizing the neighborhood. Writer and literary critic William Dean Howells suggested that realism should not deal with what is possible, but with what is probable, and this film definitely meets that standard. It is a mature Mormon movie. Viewers who have served LDS missions will likely recognize many of their own experiences on the screen. Moreover, this is not an “inside joke” film that only LDS audiences will understand. Rather, it is about people and relationships. In that respect, this is not exclusively an “LDS film” in which religion is the major issue. It is, rather, a film in which the principal characters happen to be Latter-day Saints and happen to be serving missions. Director Christian Vuissa notes that “understanding relationships and showing the process of discovery and realization are driving forces when I write a screenplay” (Errand of Angels Press Notes, Those relationships, both between the missionaries and with their investigators, form the dramatic backbone of the film, and despite a lack of “action movie” action, there is plenty here to keep your attention.

Based on an original story by Heidi Johnson who served a mission to Austria in 1993, The Errand of Angels follows the mission of Sister Rachel Taylor, a new American missionary in the Austria Vienna mission. Taylor, played by Erin Chambers, is young and immature but is dedicated to her faith and willing to work. She soon discovers, however, that her companions, played by Americans Rachel Emmers and Eunicia Jones, Austrian Bettina Schwarz, and German Katrin Mayer, are vastly different people, and she struggles to understand them and to get along with them well enough to do her work. This process is complicated by having to deal with investigators who often do things that are completely incomprehensible to the green missionary. In one wonderfully uncomfortable scene, the sisters are invited into a home and given treats, only to discover that the “investigators” have made an embarrassing mistake and have invited them in assuming they were missionaries from a different church. All of Taylor’s struggles are made more difficult by her attempts to speak a foreign language. Some of the funniest moments in the film come as a result of reading the subtitles as she does her best to speak German. There are a handful of subtitled scenes, but for the most part the characters speak English and the subtitles never get in the way of the narrative.

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