Another returning figure is Owen Taylor, the church’s youth pastor, back from a missionary trip in Puerto Rico and now having trouble in his marriage. Jem quickly develops a crush on him, and as she edges closer, concocting ways for the two of them to be alone, it’s clear where this is all heading. Of course, there’s not only a big age difference (Owen is approximately a decade older than Jem), but a huge power imbalance in this burgeoning affair, and the movie is extremely interested in exploring the effects of that dynamic on the two characters. While it’s clear to anyone watching that this is a fraught situation, Jem totally buys into Owen’s justifications about how they’re destined to be together and how their union pleases God; she’s a true believer, praying to be filled to the brim with love, and using her church dance troupe as an outlet to express the newfound freedom she feels as a young woman coming into her own. Owen, on the other hand, comes off as more of a scumbag; he doesn’t believe his own BS as much as he just wants to get laid, and with his wife snipping at him at home, he seeks refuge in the company of a girl who actually gives him the adulation he craves.
Owen is played by Lewis Pullman (son of Bill Pullman), who played the goofy sidekick character “Bob” in last year’s “Top Gun: Maverick.” You’d never know that from this performance: He’s completely ditched the nerd vibes here, and instead tapped into something more resembling a mixture of Bradley Cooper and Ben Barnes, all slicked hair and rolled sleeves and a hint of facial scruff. It’s weird to say Scanlen and Pullman have great chemistry when their relationship is not one the audience is rooting for, but they’re both doing excellent work, strapping a majority of the story to their backs and carrying it toward the finale.