There are certain films that stay with you, even decades after you see them, and Michael Tolkin’s (The Player) apocalyptic film The Rapture is one of them for me. Many times in films, the end of the world is thwarted at the last minute as the heroes find a way to stop the impending doom. Rarely does a film have the guts to take that final step. But The Rapture, which released 30 years ago on October 4, 1991, is no ordinary film and is unafraid to walk off the edge of the world.
Sharon, a young Los Angeles woman, engages in a swinging, libidinous lifestyle. She comes into contact with a sect that advises her that the Rapture is imminent.
In a time when religion is more polarizing than ever, The Rapture seems very relevant. Sharon (a terrific Mimi Rogers: Ginger Snaps) lives an empty, boring life as a phone operator by day while engaging in meaningless sex at night, all in search of some greater meaning. It is only after overhearing some co-workers talking about their religion one day that she starts to wonder if she could find that meaning through God. Broken and desperate, she is close to suicide, but cries out to God… and is born again. She joins a fundamentalist church group, marries, and has a child. Soon, Sharon follows a vision that tells her to go to the desert and await the second coming of Christ. But devotion without question comes with a price. Will she be willing to pay it in the end?
Thirty years later, The Rapture is still a courageous, daring film, one that never shies away from the hard questions. Religions, especially one like the doomsday group that Sharon becomes a part of, ask a lot of you. But the most difficult thing they ask for is unwavering faith in something unseen. Sharon’s two week vigil in the desert becomes not just a grueling test of physical endurance but one that tests the very core of her faith. It also raises the question that if God really is kind, good, and benevolent, then why do so many terrible things happen in the world He created? And what is Sharon willing to sacrifice in the name of her faith?
The visual style and effects in The Rapture are sparse and low budget, but they almost need to be to match the bleak tone of the film. What drives everything forward is the sheer power of Mimi Rogers’ performance. She does an incredible job going from anguished sinner to devoted saint to conflicted mother. This performance withstands the test of time.
And as Covid-19 sweeps across the globe, the end of the world has never felt closer than it has recently. It’s still rare to find a film that isn’t afraid to take the final step and let the apocalypse unfold. The Rapture never wavers, following through to the end where Sharon must make one last, terrible choice as the world collapses around her. This will always be a film to watch and remember.