Holy Moses: the mundane meets a world of mystery and magic to produce a small miracle

Eli Powers, “Holy Moses” (2018)

A film about how extraordinary and bizarre events can inspire people and give them purpose in life – purpose that might lead them to change their lives and the lives of others for the better – “Holy Moses” is an absurdist comedy short based around a strange miracle. A pregnant young woman (Amanda Seyfried) at an asylum for fallen women in 1960s Ireland has lost her cow and goes out into the snowy field away from the asylum farm. She locates the cow but just as she reaches out to the animal, the cow suddenly disappears … and reappears 25 years later in a very dead state at an isolated petrol station out in western Texas with lone station attendant Justice (Philip Ettinger) to witness. Justice phones the sheriff (Thomas Sadoski) to come and see for himself. The sheriff views the cow all right and is also alerted by Justice to another remarkable event: a perpetually burning bush. Astonished and partly in denial at what he sees, the sheriff contacts Doc Bob (Dan Bakkedahl) to check both Justice and the cow, though Doc Bob is not a veterinarian … and the bush itself.

A cavalcade of cars suddenly arrives at the petrol station, men in hazard suits jump out and clear away the fire and collect the cow. Justice has an unpleasant though brief conversation with a priest (John Gowans) whose message for him contrasts with the vision that Justice has witnessed, the symbolism of which Justice interprets for himself from his own knowledge of the Bible.

The strange plot works due in no small part to the actors’ enthusiasm and body language in the small and sketchy parts they play. Seyfried conveys resignation and stoicism in her brief role as Mary. Sadoski and Bakkedahl, playing men trusted in their own way to maintain law and order, physical and intellectual alike, display resistance and disbelief in ways that invite audience laughter. Only Justice, brutally reminded of his place at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder by the priest, is able to recognise the message and symbolism of the burning bush. In the film’s last few moments, his face filled with enlightenment, he connects with the young Mary who herself is able to draw hope for herself and her unborn baby in spite of the spatial and temporal distances between them.

The use of voice-over narration by Seyfried and Ettinger in their roles as Mary and Justice brings an emotional layer and a spiritual profundity to what otherwise would be a dark comedy piece worthy of the Coen brothers. The mundane everyday world intersects with magic and mystery to bring a small miracle accessible to those with the eyes and the heart to see and to know.

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