Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Chris Petty, Laura E. Mock
Run time: 114 min
“It’s complicated.” Isn’t that how people often describe their relationships? The relationships in The Tribunal are precisely that. The film, a limited theatrical release now available on cable and streaming services, is a well-intended drama involving a petition for a declaration of nullity, or annulment, from a Church tribunal. The story is told largely in flashback style through testimony given at the hearings.
Tony (Ryan Wesley Gilreath), a concert promoter and local musician, is a lapsed Catholic who falls for Emily (Laura Mock), a good Catholic girl. When she refuses his advances and invites him to Mass, he begins to clean up his act and recover his faith.
Yet the couple’s indiscretions weaken them into a sexual relationship that ultimately leads to their breakup after Emily’s father (Jim Damron), a permanent deacon, confronts Emily about her sinful choices. Tony is devastated.
Tony’s best friend and bandmate, Joe (Chris Petty), falls in love with Emily, creating the expected tensions. Joe, who is not Catholic, is divorced from Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), who married Joe only because she was unhappily pregnant. As Joe and Emily seek an annulment of Joe’s previous marriage so they can be free to wed in the Church, they need the testimony of Tony, who knew Jessie didn’t believe in the permanence of marriage and never wanted children — both grounds for annulment. Tony hesitates to help Joe, hoping Emily might return to him instead. Emily’s father, by the way, is one of the tribunal officials. Complicated enough?
As with many lower-budget films, viewers might quibble with the acting and scriptwriting. Yet the film’s small production company, St. Michael Movies, sets its sights on producing solid Catholic stories for the New Evangelization. Where this film succeeds most is in illustrating the bouts of conscience experienced by the major players and in depicting the Church’s thoughtful and compassionate handling of the tribunal process — highlighting that annulment is certainly not a light matter and often a complicated one at that.
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.