A Pagan Review of the Film "The Last Keepers"
Pagan Film Review: The Last Keepers
The Last Keepers is an American film released in April of 2013, though frankly I had never heard of it until I stumbled upon it while browsing Netflix Streaming Wireless. This PG-13 sleeper doesn't appear to be well known, because when I ask people about it, most have no idea it exists. It's really obscure. Wikipedia didn't even have a page for it (it does now, as of 2016), and as of the writing of this review, there's not a single written review of it on Rotten Tomatoes. That's unusual.
But, anyone who has read my hubs knows my niche here. I'm not a film or book critic; I'm a Pagan writer who occasionally reviews books and films that touch on Pagan spiritual themes. I guess I am a ‘Pagan fiction buff’-- that is, I like to check out movies and books that have something to do with Paganism, Witchcraft and Wicca (the more it claims to be a realistic portrayal, the better) -- and I know there are more Pagans out there who love to see positive Pagan depictions in film, so I thought I’d get the word out.
I got excited in the first few minutes of The Last Keepers. I had no idea what it would be about when I turned it on blindly, but it was almost immediately apparent that the family is Pagan. And it appeared to be depicting a Pagan religion realistically.
There is fantasy in it (it is fiction, after all), but there were some very exciting, realistic 'Pagan moments' in there for me, including a very inspiring autumn equinox ritual that’s probably the most realistic fiction film portrayal of a Pagan sabbat ritual I've ever seen.
The Last Keepers
Fun Fact: Original title for this movie was 'The Art of Love.' Thank goodness they changed it.
The Last Keepers
The Last Keepers: Cast
One of the reasons I was surprised that I’d never heard of this film, and that so few others have ever heard of it, is that the supporting cast draws from some pretty strong talent.
The lovely Virginia Madsen (Candyman; The Propehcy) plays the practical mother. Aiden Quinn, who's been in some of my all-time favorite films (Practical Magic; Benny and Joon) plays the laid-back father. And Olympia Dukakis, who I absolutely adore (Steel Magnolias; Moonstruck; Mr. Holland's Opus), plays a wise yet light-hearted grandmother.
And this is just the supporting cast! Seeing this list, I felt like I couldn't go wrong watching it. How bad could a movie be with these three in it?
Though she's not given top billing, the film focuses on Zosia Mamet, who was not someone I was familiar with. The only movie I'd ever seen her in is The Kids are All Right and I could barely remember her from her fairly small role. In looking her up I found she's more well known for her TV work than for movies (she’s had recurring roles on United States of Tara, Parenthood, Mad Men, and stars as Shoshanna in Girls. I've never actually seen any of these shows myself).
Her love interest is portrayed by Sam Underwood. It appears this might be his first feature film, though he’s done a lot of television as well.
I have to admit, it was the supporting adult cast and Pagan themes that I enjoyed about this film more than Mamet’s performance or Mamet and Underwood’s character's relationship. But I’ll get to that.
Maggie Greenwald directed the film, another person with whom I’m not that familiar. She’s done much more for TV, which is probably why The Last Keepers sometimes has the feel of a made-for-TV movie you might see on channels like Hallmark or Lifetime.
I Could Move In With This Earthy, Quirky Pagan Artist Family
Rhea (Mamet) in her recycled plastic bag dress.
Synopsis of The Last Keepers
Rhea (Mamet) lives with an eccentric-seeming family. They’re artists, they live out in the woods, and worship an ancient Goddess.
Rhea knows about the family religion, and knows they’re the last in this line (most others were killed during the Witch burning times), but she doesn’t know about her mother (Madesen) and grandmother’s (Dukakis) powers. She begins having dreams and visions that hint of the past, and perhaps of the future.
Though these dreams and visions strike her as odd, she blows them off. Rhea’s just doing the teen thing—she’s being angsty. She’s trying to express herself and fit in at school. She’s falling for a cute guy (Underwood) who has a crush on her.
Rhea and her mother are particularly going head-to-head. Her mother demands her dedication to the arts, and does not want her to go to college—she wants her to stay home, learn art, and continue on the family line. Rhea’s dad (Quinn) and grandmother are trying to be more understanding about Rhea’s desire for independence and to find her own future.
There are things Rhea doesn’t know about herself, or her family, that can’t be kept hidden anymore.
Teen Romance Fantasy Films - Gotta Love 'Em
The Family who Casts Together, Lasts Together
What About You?
Have you seen or heard of The Last Keepers?
My Opinion on The Last Keepers
My feelings about this movie were mixed. There were things I liked, and things I didn’t like. Let me start with my dislikes first, so that I can end later on a positive note.
- The teen characters are pretty much the movie’s downfall for me. I didn’t like the kids, I didn’t like their story lines. They bored me, frankly. I found them ultimately hard to like and fairly uninteresting. Especially the ‘popular’ kids, who are depicted as little more than walking clichés.
- The distorted Pagan history (perpetuating the ‘Burning Times’ myths). I know, I know—it’ a fiction movie, but the continuous perpetuation of these ‘9 million women were burned’ myths just grates on my nerves.
- The storyline and outcome were fairly predictable.
- It drags at times. The pacing wasn’t great.
- It’s a good family movie for Pagans, even young teens and tweens could watch it and might actually enjoy seeing a nice Pagan family portrayed in film. There’s no sex at all and language is pretty clean. The teens do drink at one point, but this is shown with consequences. Personally I don’t mind kids seeing things like drinking or drug use in films, as long as it’s not glorified—it can open up a dialogue. There are a couple of scenes that young children might find scary; the most violent scene in the movie is not that bloody, but it does involve the death of a goat (and before you ask-- no, it’s not a Pagan sacrifice). This might be disturbing for viewers sensitive about seeing dead animals, but the movie doesn’t drag it out, doesn’t make it too gory, and it’s not gratuitous violence.
- The adult characters, and the seasoned actors who played them. The acting on their part was stellar. I wish Rhea would go off to college, and they would make a part 2 with the adults in the film, focusing on them. These actors are all awesome and I liked these characters a lot—I loved their lives, the relationship between the married couple, between mother and daughter. I would have loved to see more of them.
- There were Pagans. And it wasn’t a horror movie. Score.
- The themes and messages in the movie, about all things being connected, about man being not in nature, but part of nature. The scenery and surroundings were often breathtaking. I think it’s a feel-good film—but then, I’m Pagan. In my research I’ve found a few reviews by Christians who were highly disturbed at seeing Paganism portrayed in a positive light in a film advertised as a teen romance; so I guess ‘feel good’ depends on your point of view of what feels good.
- Some of the more realistic Pagan scenes were pretty awesome. In one of the opening scenes, the mother was performing devotionals to the Goddess, then the family went out to greet the day with morning prayers. In a later scene, the family held a very lovely Mabon (autumn equinox) celebration.
- Sadly there are still people who will ask me or my family if our religion is like something out of Charmed… it’s nice to have a film where I can point to a scene and say, “No, it’s more like that.”
The Last Keepers Trailer
One warning for those looking for this film on places like Youtube— there are some versions of the film posted, but none are complete. There are cut scenes (and from what I could find, it’s mostly the Pagan/religious scenes that were cut). So you might not get full enjoyment out of the film if you seek it on such websites. It’s as of this writing available on Netflix Streaming Wireless, and if you don’t have that you’d do better to rent it or just buy it.
All in all, anyone who likes films with an earthy/magical theme, anyone who likes the teen romance fantasy genre, and anyone who likes seeing Pagans depicted in film might enjoy this movie and should give it a try.
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright