By Don Simpson | May 1, 2012
Director: Robbie Pickering
Writer: Robbie Pickering
Starring: Rachael Harris, Jon Gries, Matt O’Leary, John Diehl, Vanessa Vander Pluym, Billy Blair, Berna Roberts, Michael Hyland, Sam Eidson, Melinda DeKay, Hallie Martin, Gayland Williams
Linda (Rachael Harris) and Abe (John Diehl) are good middle-aged Christian fundamentalists residing in Houston who have been married for 25 years. They are so righteous and pure that they have not had sex in 24 years. Why? Well, Linda is barren and they have not wanted to waste any of Abe’s semen, because that right there would be a sin. But unbeknownst to Linda (who has lacked an outlet for her carnal needs for the longest time), no-so-honest Abe has been tirelessly donating his seed to the local sperm bank for decades. On one such visit, Abe has a stroke while stroking off to nun porn. (“It’s time for the meek to inherit the girth!”) Knowing that Abe has most likely fathered at least one offspring, Linda decides that it is her Christian duty to find a spawn of Abe’s sperm.
With Abe in a coma, Linda heads to Tampa where she tracks down a 23-year-old named Raymond (Matt O’ Leary). Raymond lets Linda know from the get-go that he does not want to listen to no “Jesus shit”; heck, Raymond has a difficult time making it through a sentence without cursing. Oh, and Raymond recently escaped from prison (in the magnificent opening scene), so now he is on the run from the law. With the fuzz hot on his trail, Raymond agrees to drive with Linda back to Texas. As the Christian and the blasphemer hop in the hatchback together, Robbie Pickering’s Natural Selection quickly evolves into a quirky, odd couple road movie that takes a few somewhat unexpected turns.
Pickering avoids condescension in his thoughtful and open-minded observation of religious fundamentalism. If Pickering is critical of anything, it is the gender inequality inherent within certain Christian sects. The men make the rules — and bend them to fit their whims — while women must obey them; just like in politics, men control women with laws regarding sexual conduct. Humans are sexual beings, so to instruct them to ignore their natural desires is just asking for trouble. Abstinence is merely a means of manipulation and control, it is certainly not the answer for any of society’s woes.
Natural Selection nearly swept the awards at SXSW 2011, winning both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature, as well as the SXSW Competition Awards for Best Screenplay (Robbie Pickering), Best Score/Music (Curt Schneider, iZLER), Best Editing (Michelle Tesoro), Breakthrough Performance (Rachael Harris), and Breakthrough Performance (Matt O’Leary).