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Twist of Faith Reviews

The legacy of childhood sexual abuse hangs over Kirby Dick's Oscar-nominated documentary, made for HBO's America Undercover series, in which Toledo, Ohio, firefighter Tony Comes undertakes a sadly inconclusive quest. The 33-year-old Comes wants an accounting from Dennis Gray, the former priest who abused him as a Catholic School teenager, and from the Church hierarchy that protected his molester. When we first meet the 33-year-old Comes, he's an outgoing, ruggedly handsome man who radiates physical confidence and emotional openness. Conspicuously devoted to his wife, Wendy, and their children, nine-year-old Samantha and four-year-old Michael, Comes told his parents about Gray after a stint in the Navy and told Wendy, an adult convert to Catholicism, while they were dating. He sees a therapist and appears to have come to terms with the experience. But beneath the placid surface of their lives is a volatile pit of bitterly unresolved emotions, and a bizarre coincidence sets them loose: Tony and Wendy buy their first home, a pretty house in a quiet, wooded neighborhood, and discover after they've moved in that Gray lives five doors away. Coupled with news reports from Boston about an ever-widening scandal involving sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the Church hierarchy's long history of denying the problem and protecting the perpetrators, it forces Tony to rake over old hurts. He contacts the Bishop of Toledo, who's called for victims to come forward, and tells him that when Father Gray, who subsequently left the priesthood, taught at Central Catholic High School in the mid-1980s, he regularly invited 13- and 14-year-old boys to spend weekends at his family's cottage. The teenagers drank, smoked, played pool, fished, went skinny dipping and, Comes asserts, had sex with Gray. Gray denies everything and the bishop falsely assures Comes that his is the only such complaint; Comes later learns that six other men have made similar allegations. As Comes pours more of his energy into pursuing legal redress, he becomes haggard and short-tempered. He and Wendy discuss divorce, and he accuses his mother of disloyalty when she refuses to repudiate her faith, though she unambiguously denounces Gray. By the film's end, Comes is shattered, his marriage is on shaky ground and Gray remains uncharged; the local diocese has helped him relocate. Like so many true stories, Comes' lacks the clarity and comforting resolution of fiction; it's a morass of accusations and denials that taints and poisons everyone involved.