Sundance review: 'Believer' is an emotional exploration of two conflicting beliefs

BELIEVER: Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds looks to build a bridge between the LDS Church and the gay community. (Photo: Sundance Film Festival)

(KUTV) In August Dan Reynolds, lead singer for Imagine Dragons, visited KUTV to talk about his upcoming music festival, LoveLoud, that he hoped would provide a bridge between the gay and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) communities.

My colleague, Holly Menino, interviewed Reynolds for television, but I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him informally about the concert he was planning. He was accompanied by a small team, everything was being filmed, but to think that the movie would premier at the Sundance Film Festival some six months later? That was something I would have called impossible.

Impossible like building a bridge between the LBGTQ community and Mormon church.

"Believer" is the story of a man trying to make sense of his conflicting beliefs. Reynolds wants to be Mormon, but he also wants the gay community to be embraced by his religion. The film follows Reynolds as he tries to organize the festival, meets with various members of the Utah gay community and the unexpected tragedies and triumphs that followed. He offers a glimpse into his life, both current and past, and the evolution of his beliefs.

Reynolds is a passionate person who is led by his heart. When he talks about things he cares about, he tends to stray into lengthy monologues. It was director Don Argott's job to find the core of what was being said and distill it down into a coherent story without watering down the emotions behind it. To that end, Argott has done a very good job of bringing a sense of focus and forward momentum as it builds to the euphoria of the concert.

Along the way we meet Tyler Glenn, lead singer of Neon Trees, an openly gay man who tried to balance being Mormon, but eventually rejected his religion.

The most beautiful scene of the film finds Glenn and Reynolds in a Salt Lake City park, a potential location for LoveLoud, singing a childhood hymn. I wish there were more moments like this. A place where the showman has no audience.

"Believer" is a film that offers comfort to those who are young, gay and religious. It isn't an angry film, but it is a movie that is laced with frustration. It is a warm hug, a flashlight in a long and dark tunnel and a bitter pill to swallow.

I don't know how the film will play to those who are disinterested in the religion and sexual orientation conversion or hardcore Imagine Dragons or Neon Trees fans who want a look at the personal lives of their idols. Time will tell.

"Believer" is a good film with even better intentions.

The film has been picked up by HBO and is set to debut sometime during the summer of 2018.

Upcoming Sundance Film Festival Screenings:
Mon. 1/22, 6:30 p.m., Wagner, SLC
Tue. 1/23, 10:00 p.m., Redstone 2, PC
Sat. 1/27, 9:00 p.m., Temple, PC

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