Film review: ‘What Remains’ tests the limits of Christian forgiveness

A murderer returns home to face a pastor, whose wife he killed


“What Remains” isn’t your everyday mainstream film festival offering. It’s a well-acted, well-scripted, well-directed film that is earnestly Christian.

Nathan Scoggins, whose previous films include “The Least of These” and “The Perfect Summer,” takes a searing look at forgiveness.

The forgiving in this case is coming from Marshall (Cress Williams), the pastor of the Hope International Baptist Church in Texas. The location isn’t named in the film, but it was shot in Amarillo.

The pastor’s forgiveness is aimed at Troy (Kellan Lutz), who killed his wife and is facing prison time. The pastor could have testified against Troy and increased his prison time, but the pastor declined.

Fast forward five years, and Troy is getting out of prison on parole. He’s not at all ready for freedom, and ends up going back to his hometown, much to the dismay of the pastor’s teenage son, Samuel (Marcus Gladney Jr.).

Troy’s arrival pushes the pastor’s notions of forgiveness to the limit, too. But when he discovers that Troy cannot find a job because of his conviction, he offers to let Troy help out around the church for a minimal salary.

As the pastor says, he has to believe in forgiveness and redemption. Otherwise, the teachings of Jesus were a lie.

As the movie unfolds, another murder in town is being investigated by the sheriff, Maureen (the late Anne Heche, in one of her last movie roles.) It turns out that all of these events are connected, but to reveal those connections would be a spoiler.

The role of Troy is a big departure for Lutz, who often plays hunky dudes in such films as “The Expendables 3,” “The Legend of Hercules,” and “The Twilight Saga.” He’s hunky here, too, but he keeps his shirt on — and proves he has some acting chops.

Scoggins, the director, has a background in Christianity, as you might have guessed. He has been a professor of film at JP Catholic University since 2008. The JP, by the way, stands for John Paul the Great. The university is based in Escondido, Calif., and many of Scoggins’ students helped make the movie.

“What Remains” had its world premiere on Oct. 29. It screens again at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Rollins Theatre.

Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy
Charles Ealy is a former movies editor for The Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman.

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