This film received little cinema release (strange, given its talked-about topic) but has gained wider audiences through DVD and television screenings.
It is often advertised that a film is taken from today’s headlines. This could be said of The Least of These. And, for those who immediately recognise Jesus’ words about children and about scandal, they would realise that we are in the drama of sexual abuse.
While this is a rather melodramatic treatment of a number of related themes as well, it is not without interest, given the contemporary climate on the issue.
It seems to be set in a Catholic school and viewers have interpreted it that way. However, the school and the chapel do not have any Catholic pictures, statues or iconic props and the final credits indicate that there was some strong Lutheran input into the making of the film.
A young priest, Fr Andre (Isaiah Washington) who had been a student at the school, comes back to join the staff after being absent from the diocese (Colorado) for two years. His predecessor has disappeared. Andre is welcomed by the priest rector of the school (Robert Loggia), is treated warily by the disciplinarian (Bob Gunton) and in a friendly way by the other priest on the staff (John Billingsley).
The boys are another matter, typical of boarders at any school, nominally religious but mainly not. Andre manages to settle in, dealing with the priests, trying to assess and relate to the boys, puzzling about the disappearance of Fr Collins.
A rich boy, Jason Boyd (Andrew Lawrence) who is a champion at sport is quite hostile, especially when Fr Andre asks the boys to compose their own paryers. There is another reclusive boy who spends a lot of time in the chapel and is wary of talking. We soon realise that he is one student who has been abused.
Isaiah Washington brings quite some dignity and presence to the character of Fr Andre. The three other priests are seen in different lights by the end of the film.
Not a great film by any means, but one which is eminently watchable - Peter Malone, Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Starring Isiah Washington, Robert Loggia and Bob Gunton. Directed by Nathan Scoggins.