Playwright/actor Tim Blake Nelson's debut as a writer/director is an effective piece of neo-Southern gothic that is reminiscent of the stories of Flannery O'Connor, dealing with sin and the possibilities of redemption. Eye of God betrays little of its stage origins, because Nelson clearly understands that his setting -- a sleepy Oklahoma town -- is an important player in his story of a bored waitress diving into an ill-considered marriage to an ex-con. Nelson creates an air of stillness about his little town that is at first soothing, then stultifying, and finally more than a bit menacing. Martha Plimpton makes the trusting Ainsley a heartbreakingly naïve character, and Kevin Anderson is chillingly persuasive as Jack, a man whose conversion from criminal to Christian makes him no less dangerous. Nick Stahl (now familiar from roles in In the Bedroom and Bully) is effective as Tom, the teenager who is key to the story's central act of violence. Nelson tells his tale in elliptical fashion, holding back key information so that the true horror creeps up on us. It's a modest but impressive debut, and Nelson's follow-up, O, was a more ambitious work containing some of the same elements.