There’s little that comes off as “natural” in “Natural Selection,” a stiffly heavy-handed, drawn-out, faith-based drama about a Christ-like teen struggling to find his true path.
Arriving in a new town, soft-spoken Tyler (Mason Dye) and his alcoholic mother (“Bluebloods” regular Amy Carlson) have chosen the proverbial fresh start, but there are telling signs that it won’t be a smooth transition.
Tyler is immediately targeted by the bullies at his new high school, which, curiously, doesn’t appear to have a single character of color among the student body, while his mom is finding it difficult to extricate herself from the throes of depression in the wake of her husband’s suicide.
He’s taken under the manipulative wing of the troubled Indrid (Ryan Munzert), an outsider with a dark soul (how else to explain his non-creationist views?) who chastises Tyler for having too much faith in people.
You know from the repeated close-ups of all those guns mounted in the display cabinet at Indrid’s home that his profound disenchantment with the universe isn’t going to end well, but first-time writer-director Chad Scheifele forcefully prolongs the inevitable.
His cast, which also includes Anthony Michael Hall as the school’s sympathetic security guard, have apparently been instructed to wring all meaning out of every word of the awkward dialogue that already bears scant resemblance to actual contemporary conversation.
Enduring “Natural Selection,” with its painfully overt themes of good versus evil, absolution and redemption, is the true definition of survival of the fittest.
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD