Set in 1380 England, the film opens with a medieval priest delivering his sermon in an austere chapel filled with poverty stricken peasants. The young priest addresses the harsh ascetic life those villagers lead, proclaiming in his sermon that “This life simply has to be harsh”. This particular line establishes the general atmosphere of the film, and the strict life in which the entire story takes place.
Based on the novel “Morality Play” by Barry Unsworth, the film tells the story of a renegade priest called Nicholas, who joins a travelling theater company after committing a deadly sin that forces him to escape his village, and dissociate himself from the church. As the band members reach a small town in rural England, where a gruesome murder was allegedly committed by a deaf and mute woman, they find themselves challenged into reenacting the events of the crime, and in doing so; uncover some of the dark secrets regarding religion, temptation, and the political chaos of the time.
The Reckoning evolves from being simply a mystery tale by including fascinating glimpses into the real life struggles that faced actors of the time. Some of the most beautiful scenes in the film are the sequences presenting the actors’ rituals before taking the stage. Moreover the main dilemma facing the actors when attempting to replicate the crime is the fact that at the time theatrical plays were strictly limited to biblical stories. They find themselves performing one of the earliest morality plays of their time, and in accordance wind up becoming part of the actual deceitful play taking place in the village, as they fight to gain the truth and follow the righteous path of saving the poor woman accused.
Shot in various locations including Andalucía, Essex, and Wales, the skillful camerawork masterfully captures the beautiful scenery of all three locations. Additionally, various homages to the timeless cinematography of Sven Nykvist are found all throughout the film. Although the editing may appear sloppy at times, the addition of a haunting soundtrack, and an incredible performance from all the cast members, allow the film to captivate its viewers, relocating them into the highly religious yet greatly immoral medieval times.