The Overnighters

| February 3, 2015

What worth is the “American Dream” if one’s own livelihood is destroyed at its pursuit? This is the lingering question that lies at the heart of Jesse Moss’ incredible film The Overnighters, a powerful documentary unlike any other and a spectacle of non-fiction filmmaking. Set in Williston, North Dakota, The Overnighters follows Jay Reinke, a Pastor, who has committed to house the displaced oil workers that have come all over the country and the world, in order to better themselves. While Pastor Reinke is using his church in order to help the less fortunate, many of his congregation and his community feel as if he’s inviting low lives and degenerates to infest Williston and wish for him to stop his harboring of these men and women. While the film sets out to show Jay’s journey and the close few that are around him, The Overnighters manages to have twists and turns that are gripping, heartbreaking and ultimately human, as Moss’ camera captures this incredible tale.

From the very beginning of the film, we’re introduced with the herculean labor that Reinke has taken upon himself and his family. While the burden of being a pastor and a leader of the community is plentiful for a family, Reinke’s taken on a lot more, with his harboring of these displaced workers. The film explores this aspect and the tolls that it takes upon both Reinke and his family, to which no one comes out unscathed. Much like how the men and women were fleeting to and fro in Reinke’s church, Moss’ film manages to capture slight glimpses of people that become regulars in the film. While they don’t get as much of the spotlight as Reinke, we’re still able to catch a peak into the various lives that have been attracted by the lucrative fracking happening in North Dakota.

The film takes a major twist by the last 30 minutes, that ultimately show the journey of a flawed individual, a man who bit off more than he can chew and the repercussions that it has on everyone around him. The story isn’t a pleasant one, but The Overnighters manages to capture a portrait of America in its booming development and its economic despair during recent years with a bravado and magnitude that grips you until its closing frames. While by the end, people might question the true motives of Pastor Jay Reinke, I feel that the film portrays a man, a human being that is as flawed as any other, who decided to help broken people, as a means of fixing his own broken soul.

The Blu-Ray courtesy of Cinedigm and Drafthouse films, presents wonderful video and audio presentations, as well as a few extras, for a worthwhile release. The video on the disc is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. I don’t know what type of camera Moss shot on, but the video in the film looks absolutely amazing. With tons of beautiful B-Roll footage of rural North Dakota, as well tons of great footage of working on various fracking projects, The Overnighters manages to tell a powerful story visually, as well as dramatically. The audio on the disc is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, that match the video in quality. Dialog is crystal clear and centered directly in the center channel, while the other channels are used for both music and ambient sound, that also reinforce the storytelling. There’s an interview with Jay Reinke, after the film, as well as a commentary from both Moss and Reinke. In the 12 page booklet included, there’s a two page directors statement, along with a series of portraits of some of the Overnighters themselves, taken by Drew Ludwig. There’s also a series of trailers for other Drafthouse Cinema films and a free digital download for the film.

The Overnighters stands as a compelling human drama, sprinkled with the ideals of the “American Dream” and a portrayal of a man and his journey to help those around him. Highly Recommended!

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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