Saturday, 24 June 2017
The lens through which you view this film will totally determine your response to it. For those who try to live without faith it will disappoint and frustrate. For those with a living faith it will be interesting and may even provoke questions. For those Christians who have an active faith, it will engage and possibly even excite and challenge your view of God. If you read and liked the 2007 book on which it is based, you will like the film.
The story feels contrived, the plot clunky and some of the acting a little odd. However, I would still advocate going to see this - maybe with a group and have a discussion over pizza (or cuisine of your choice) afterwards. Not only is it imbued with the cultural ethos of (North American) Evangelical Christianity in its theological outlook, it also sets out an apologetic response to the good old question 'why does God let bad things happen?'. Whether the contrivance of these two things work for you is only something you can determine.
The structure of the film works differently to the book but the central premise is the same. The background is familial child abuse that then is overtaken by child abduction and hinted at murder. The themes that the film explores are guilt, grief, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, Trinity and the nature of God. Because the film deals with heavyweight theological and Biblical themes, everyone will have a view on how they should be set out. Not everyone will agree with the stance the film takes, but I feel they did a good job. Rather than being critical of the film's content and style, I would invite viewers to reflect on their own response and how the film, may or may not have challenged and changed their view of God and these big areas of Christian doctrine. How would you make a film that featured the Christian Trinity?
Much of the film is predictable but there is also a playfulness about how a Trinitarian God is depicted and how the persons of the Trinity interact. For me, the film portrays the role of wisdom much more helpfully than the book does - but again that's down to a different structure and sequence of encounters. I had problems with a lot of Sam Worthington's mumbled diction - I simply couldn't understand what he was saying which was a pity as he played the central character Mack. However the other characters and wonderful locations in the film more than made up for it.
This will be a great film to watch for church groups and then discuss afterwards - perhaps it will appear as a 2018 Lent course? I imagine it will only be in the cinema in the UK for a limited time and as yet I haven't found a scheduled release date for the disc version. Do go and see it - and allow yourself to be surprised. As a film 6/10, as an attempt to visualise complex theology 8/10 so it scores 7/10 on here.