*** DEBUG END ***

Film review: The Sinners

19 March 2021

Stephen Brown reviews ‘a story about sin’

A still from The Sinners

A still from The Sinners

PRESS notes set Courtney Paige’s The Sinners (Cert. 15) in a Roman Catholic high school. On the contrary, this is small-town Canada and definitely down among “Bible-believing Christians”. The only lessons that students seem to have are Religious Education. Scriptural texts abound, albeit rather sloppily.

We soon get the idea that this hothouse will foment adolescent breakout. Seven girls form a clique, known as The Sinners. Each supposedly personifies a deadly vice, although there is little on show to support it. These teenagers are given one line early on to define which sin they represent and why. Katie (Keilani Elizabeth Rose) has a flashy car, thanks to rich parents, hence classifying herself as Greed.

Other characters are as vaguely drawn, making it hard to remember their particular penchant for evil. The group’s ringleader, Grace (Kaitlyn Bernard), is daughter of a fervent local pastor and identified as Lust. This is despite resisting the sexual advances of her boyfriend. Later, she settles down with Wrath (Brenna Coates playing Tori) as if that confirmed her nomenclature.

The oppressive God whom her father proclaims drives Grace in another direction. She also learns from him that one of their cult, disturbed by its behaviour, visited him and spilled the beans. Suspicion immediately falls on Aubrey (Brenna Llewellyn), who, for some reason, is linked to Pride. Perhaps it is because she’s the most studiously devout of them all.

At the beginning of the film, we hear her voice. “This is a story about sin. This is how my body ended up at the bottom of a lake.” Thus does the movie assert its belief in life after death — which is just as well; for murder most foul befalls “sinner” after “sinner”. Under the guise of a Bible-study meeting, the six contrive to scare Aubrey into future silence. This maltreatment gets badly out of hand.

In this genre, things inevitably reach a tragic climax. The storyline, however, includes some clumsy misdirection and continuity when characters may as well have had head transplants since their last appearance, such is the break with their previous personalities. That, combined with dubious biblical exegesis, in which forgiveness, hope, and righteousness remain absent, stretches credibility to breaking-point.

The Sinners is not in the same league as Lord of the Flies, in which, left to their own devices, young people fall from grace. Unlike Ralph in William Golding’s story, nobody weeps “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart”; nor, despite the maker’s comparison claims, does The Sinners pack the punch of The Craft (1996) or David Fincher’s 1995 thriller Se7en.

If missing the mark defines sin, then this film embodies that. Instead of fastening on the seven deadly sins, this film might have had more luck with the heavenly virtues.

On digital platforms

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)