A couple attends a Pre-Cana retreat to test the “Certainty” of their commitment in Peter Askin’s none-too-subtle Catholic cautionary tale. Scriptwriter Mike O’Malley, adapting his play, carefully normalizes and secularizes his characters to make them more relatable, painting them in meticulous shades of gray (one guy even cracks a joke about not wanting to close his eyes anywhere near a priest). But the observational niceties, liberally sprinkled about, cannot disguise the film’s inexorable moral agenda. Opening Nov. 30 at Gotham’s Quad, this exercise in Catholic adaptability will resonate only with the faithful.
Heavy-handed perfs by white-bread leads Adelaide Clemens and Dominic Colon emphasize the pettiness of the couple’s arguments, missing the wryness that might make their fallibility attractive. Valerie Harper essays a Catholic twist on her yakkety yenta “Rhoda” persona, while Giancarlo Esposito, as the wise, hip priest heading the retreat, is called upon to bring believability to a film low in that commodity. Other thesps, in secondary roles as well-coupled friends, try hard but never seem to inhabit the same movie.