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Sword of Trust

The comedy about strangers in Alabama and conspiracy theories is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 68

Mel (Marc Maron) owns a pawn shop in Alabama, where he spends his days tolerating his assistant Nathaniel (Jon Bass) and assessing whatever random junk — and the occasional treasure — people bring in. One day, Cynthia and Mary (Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins) arrive with a sword inherited from Cynthia’s late grandfather, who also left behind a racist and unhinged note behind about its importance in a Civil War battle.

That sword sends the group down an internet rabbit hole full of conspiracy theorists who claim the Confederacy actually won the war, and they’re acquiring the artifacts to prove it. Mel and Cynthia and Mary don’t believe the story, but they all need the money, so they hatch a plot to sell the sword to the conspiracists, and along the way, they start to realize a lot about their own lives.

Writer and director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) works with her cast to craft partly improvised dialogue and relationships that feel authentic and lived-in, and Sword of Trust is no exception. It’s a satirical film about how people can get suckered into telling something less than the truth. But it’s also a moving portrait of humans just trying to get by, with performances that bring warmth and life to its premise. And it never lacks empathy for the strange paths its characters take.

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