Brief Plot Synopsis: Young woman flees cult, still talks to parents.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Voldemorts out of 5.
Better Tagline: "The dark side of the Moonie."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Cara Jones was raised in Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, even going so far as to participate in one of its famous mass weddings before growing disillusioned and leaving. Now, years later, she's attempting to come to grips with her decision and reconcile with her parents, who are still with the Church.
Describe This Movie In One Airplane! Scene: (couldn't find a trailer)
"Critical" Analysis: "How do you walk away from family?" is the thesis for Cara Jones's Blessed Child, though a better one might be, "What if you left a cult and nobody cared?"
For example, there are a couple moments in the film Jones's father, a long-time senior figure in the Unification Church, appears close to a reckoning with A) the choice he made to leave his toddler daughter in another person's care while he and his wife did missionary work, and B) the Church's adamant stance against homosexuality (his son is gay).
After long moments attempting to maintain his composure, and just when you allow yourself to think he might be experiencing a spiritual epiphany, he ultimately falls back on his trust in the doctrines of the Church while expressing his hopes they can "update" their teachings.
But Cara's parents' willingness to let her interview them highlights the differences between their experiences and those of other ... let's call them "religious movements," even if their reluctance to criticize the organization that's been the centerpiece of the last 50+ years of their life is understandable. Though Cara uses this to highlight how the Church normalizes the bulk of their seemingly innocuous positions while still behaving like, well, a cult.
The Church's popularity in the West, which peaked in the 1970s, is at least partly explained by how it attracted disaffected hippies with its multi-racial approach to so-called "unity." At the same time, it's emphasis on abstinence appealed to those of a more conservative bent who were ill-at-ease with the peace movement's free-love association.
The Jones family experience mirrors those of many who joined during this era, and while a good portion of the first act is waiting for the other shoe to drop, Cara's discontent turns out to be a more organic evolution and not the result of any specific incident. Indeed, Blessed Child shows how many former cult members left merely because they grew disillusioned with the organization, or chafed at the restrictions.
And watching this, one gets the definite sense Cara and others got off lucky. Unlike, say, Scientology, Cara was free to leave and revisit her family, who were under no official mandate to shun her. Sure, the Unification Church is still run by tax-dodging frauds who exploit members for free labor and violently oppose homosexuality, but hey, baby steps right?
Blessed Child ends up a kinder, gentler version of this sort of doc (which is a relief), with friendly family dinners and even a reconciliation between Cara and her mother. Mr. Jones, however, never quite makes it past his indoctrination.
Full disclosure: In high school, I answered an ad in the back of National Lampoon magazine to become a minister, which ended up being provided by the Unification Church. In other words, I am authority on this subject.