At a high point in the story, as I recall, the daughter was punished by a group from her community. The punishment was something insane and potentially lethal, but she managed to survive. Either she escaped at this point, or she was sent away.
In the final bit of the movie, the daughter returns to her home. She wasn't going to stay; this was just a visit. She sits with her family, has tea or coffee or somesuch, and they all carry on in a civilized manner. It was as if she'd never violated the rules, and they hadn't tried to kill her, or anything.
I found this particular aspect bizarre beyond understanding. How'd she manage to forgive these people for trying to kill her? If they hadn't abandoned their own faith, how was it they managed to forgive her for whatever sins she'd committed? It was all hard to follow.
In a recent conversation, I brought this storyline up. I marveled at how it went, and I wondered how it worked. How do people in reality get over these kinds of interpersonal schisms? And how can this bridging of gaps be shown in fiction?
First: On Failure
I learned years ago that the protagonist moves through a scene with a deliberate goal in mind. If the scene is going to fit and the story is going to have punch, the rule is simple: the protagonist fails at whatever it is.
(Corollary: Any time the protagonist has a goal that meets with success should not be given a scene. Success is not interesting enough for a lot of wordcount. Summarize it, then get on with the struggling and failing.)
Second: On Subordinate Goals
I learned, too, a simple method for building up a goal-oriented plotline. Give a character a major goal to achieve. List out ten subordinate goals that figure into the major goal's success. Then, for three of those subordinate goals, flesh out three major obstacles that impede success. Now run the the protagonist into those obstacles, and there's your action.
Putting that together with the required failures means that the major goal is in serious doubt from early on. The protagonist meets with failure in every scene, which means most or all of those nine obstacles will keep the protagonist from achieving success. Fail at thirty percent of the subordinate goals, and I'm betting against your success at the big one.
Third: Previous Failures in Perspective
The answer we came up with in this chat sounds like a good one: A failed subordinate goal becomes an obstacle to overcome later.
When the family tried to save their wayward daughter's soul, it was a total failure. When the daughter tried to keep the peace despite being a black sheep, it was a total failure. The entire thing blew up, and it blew up big. She fled or was exiled.
Round Two doesn't make sense. She might think they'll have gotten over it all, but why would she risk death again? They might think she's repented, but without a white flag and a penitent message, why would they risk letting evil back into their happy community?
They've all accepted failure, and they've moved on. Moving on means having other goals to achieve. Make a nice 90th birthday for Grandpa, say. But to do that, the family needs to have their wayward daughter around! And for the daughter to share cake with her beloved granddad, she needs to be surrounded by the family! The earlier failure doesn't need to be revisited as a goal to try over again -- that's done for good and all. Now that old failure is an obstacle to the subordinate goal of Getting Along for Grandpa's Sake.
Example: The Failing Bookstore
Goal: Keep a local bookstore alive
Sub-goals: Get more customers; lower the cost of books; get cheaper rent. (There are seven others; I'll leave them off.)
Failing to get more customers seems to me like a game ending problem. Obstacles might be: ebooks kill the market; an economic recession dries up discretionary spending; traditional advertising isn't reaching new customers.
Our protagonist tries to get around the ebook issue. (Offers free ebooks with purchase of a hardcopy, maybe.) Tackles the recession! (Hosts a job fair/resume building seminar, offers sale prices on related nonfiction books.) Circumvents traditional advertising? (Gets the bookstore's travel section used as a geocaching drop site!)
Whatever: thing is, it doesn't work. Nobody wants to download free classics at a bookstore rather than from home. The job fair draws in people, maybe, but not bookbuyers. And the geocaching only makes the store a target for shoplifters.
The customer base doesn't budge. Going on with the story...
Getting cheaper books? Bulk prices aren't feasible, especially with a shrinking customer base. Cutting a deal with a distributor means somebody is cutting one's own throat, especially with the recession. Getting shoddier products might work to lower prices, but who'll buy the products?
Our protagonist tries to cut a deal, and fails. Can't afford to go on as-is, so desperately accepts a bulk deal despite the total failure to bring in more customers. Consults with those few customers and lurkers who have shown up to see who wants to sell their own works for cheap, to boost inventory at low cost.
So...cheaper products are good, but insufficient customers are bad. It's a push so far, and the shop is dying. Can the rent be dropped?
The landlord might show compassion, or offer an extension for loyalty. Some special loan might be worked out, paying off the year's rent and allowing for two years of lower payments to get over the hump (assuming it's a hump). If only there were some dirt the protagonist could get on the landlord, to force a deal on cheaper rent!
The customer base isn't going to bode well for a loan. And loyalty is one thing, but pragmatism is another. Bookstores aren't trying to get over the hump, they're facing certain doom. But that dirt...
Success at last! The protagonist will find some evidence of wrongdoing on the landlord's part. It's enough to force a new lease with favorable rates. Even the limited customer base can support the rent if costs stay down, and that gives the protagonist another season to figure out how to draw in more folks.
There's the basics of the plot, and some decently credible ways for failures to affect the ongoing scheme without bringing the whole enterprise to a stop at the first sign of trouble.