Eye of God

Director: Tim Blake Nelson
Screenwriters: Tim Blake Nelson

Institute History


Tim Nelson’s feature debut, Eye of God, is a methodical and carefully crafted, yet fully realized, portrait of a small town in the desolate Oklahoma oil fields It’s also a rarity in American independent cinema because it works on multiple levels without compromising any of its power or effectiveness.

An ostensibly simple story unfolds as the police interrogate a young boy found walking along the road bloody and in shock. As the sheriff, beautifully played by the old pro Hal Holbrook, gently prods his almost catatonic witness, we flash back to six months earlier when the town waitress, Ainsley, met for the first time her long-term correspondent, Jack, just paroled. The two had bonded by mail, and Ainsley had high hopes for a real relationship. Rehabilitated and deeply religious, Jack seemed genuinely eager to change his life and so, somewhat precipitously, they decided to marry. Ainsley and Jack may not be compatible, but director Nelson has not chosen to tell a straightforward tale of suspense or discovery. Instead, as the story’s parallel lines interweave, a much deeper discourse and set of questioning begin to surface. Nelson displays a superb grasp of filmmaking structure and craft as he fashions a modern tale of spiritual discovery and doubt.

With a wonderful set of performances, especially by Martha Plimpton as Ainsley and Kevin Anderson as Jack, Eye of God is at once a dramatic story and cerebral contemplation. In this fluidly conceived film, our attention is continually refocused and redirected, and its subtle and nuanced narrative is full of distinctive, fully fleshed-out characters and delicately entwined stories. Rich and resonant, Eye of God is a work whose impact builds gradually, and the memories and thoughts it provokes will remain with you a long time.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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