Sundance 2022 Review: “The Mission”

Year: 2022

Runtime: 95 minutes

Director: Tania Anderson

By Morgan Roberts

After high school, some young adults head straight to college, some take a gap year, and for some, their faith sends them to far reaches of the world to preach their gospel. In “The Mission” (2022), director Tania Anderson follows four young Mormon missionaries as they head to Finland for a two year Mission on behalf of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

The film introduces us to Kai, a young man not quite understanding his place in the world, Tyler, the all-American poster child for Mormon missionaries, McKenna, a family-oriented young woman who sees hope in her mission, and Megan, an optimistic young woman from a circle of people who are not as invested in the church as she is.  We follow their journey as they all come to the realization that saving souls is not easy business.  Each missionary is paired with a companion, which changes about every nine weeks.  With their companion, our four protagonists go forth on their journey of spiritual lessons and door-to-door preaching.

The film has access to meetings and services normally not granted.  We see inside a Mormon Temple during regular Sunday services.  We join these four young people at training in Utah before their trek across the globe.  We see them in Finland, meeting with leaders of the Mormon community there.  

The film is not pro-Mormon or their beliefs. Quite frequently, we see the stark isolation each missionary faces.  The limited time they have to communicate with their family, the language barrier, the remote communities.  We see them get rejected over and over again.  In one scene, McKenna and her companion speak with a family about their beliefs and it is noted that the Church believes people came to America 600 years before the birth of Christ, preaching the gospel and establishing civilization.  The family quickly points out the timeline issue of people spreading the word about Jesus centuries before his birth. 

What “The Mission” accomplishes is stripping away the stereotypes of LDS missionaries, and seeing the people, and truly children, behind the black ties and skirts.  We see them all struggle with isolation.  Tyler, in particular, openly struggles with his faith and mental health.  At one point, he remarks, “I think it is completely normal to be mad at God.”  While their practices might not be the most enticing, nor their beliefs all that understandable, at the end of the day, each person we encounter is just that: a person.  We see their fun sides, their hope, their heartbreak, and their struggles.

“The Mission” is an examination of humanness.  It looks at the way faith propels some people.  The hurdles they have with their faith.  And simply, it examines coming-of-age into adulthood.  Despite its sometimes cold and snowy surroundings, “The Mission” is a warm film, examining the triumphs and obstacles that we face on our journeys. 

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