The Overnighters, film review: Superb documentary highlights plight of unemployed Americans seeking work in fracking industry

(12A) Jesse Moss, 102 mins
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The Independent Culture

Jesse Moss's superb documentary works on two very different levels. On the one hand, it's a crusading social drama, highlighting the desperate plight of the unemployed Americans who flock to North Dakota in the hope of finding work in the fracking industry.

The jobs, though, aren't as plentiful as they've been led to believe. There is nowhere to stay, and the locals are hostile to these economic migrants (some with criminal records as sex offenders) who have pitched up in their midst. Pastor Jay Reinke at the Concordia Lutheran Church is one of the few to welcome and encourage them. He allows them to sleep in the church or in its car park and fights their cause with the local politicians.

The documentary has an extra, extraordinarily poignant dimension. Pastor Reinke, its ostensible hero, who behaves with such courage and decency, turns out to be someone in the same seething state of uncertainty and anxiety as the people he tries to help. He too needs a second chance. "It's easy to become a facade," Reinke acknowledges as he points out the gap between his public persona and his private life.

Moss has put the documentary together in painstaking fashion, somehow managing to be there, filming discreetly, at all the most intimate and climactic moments.