Jesus Is Calling: A Moment of Clarity in ‘Junebug’


here’s a key development in Phil Morrison’s forlorn 2005 dramedy, Junebug, that is so subtle it could almost go unnoticed. It comes during a parish get-together, where George (Alessandro Nivola, having been away for several years) is reunited with the throng of his Bible Belt hometown in North Carolina. During the festivities, George is summoned by the local pastor to lead a hymn for the congregation: a roomful of old friends and neighbours, his parents, siblings—and Madeline (Embeth Davidtz), his brand-new wife.

As George opens his mouth to sing (nervously to begin with, then with newfound gusto) the camera switches tenderly between faces in the crowd: his tearful mother, overjoyed sister, proud father. And then we come to Madeline, a presumed non-believer, clearly taken aback by this sudden outpouring of spirituality.

That we’re only just getting to know the couple ourselves at this stage—one minute they’re ripping each other’s clothes off (following an impromptu crossing of paths); the next they’ve gotten wed—plays magnificently into the moment, as Madeline sits there beside her in-laws with the conspicuousness of a stranger, her amiable half-grin giving way to a cold, inquisitive stare.

When it’s time to applaud, she does so, but with uncertainty in her eyes. Something’s just dawned on her about the man she fell in lust with . . .

I don’t know him.

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