MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Tribeca Films
Not Rated (I would rate it NC-17).
Directed by David Mackenzie. Starring Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn.
On Video on Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and other streaming services.
Since Jesus encouraged us to visit Him in prison in Matthew 25, the system has definitely changed for the worse. With so many persons incarcerated in the United States (with a disproportionate racial bias regarding imprisonment on drug possession charges), I think Christians to consider those behind bars.
For some reason, the British seem to make the best prison films. These are movies that are unflinching in their realism and honest about the persons who find themselves incarcerated. Starred Up is the latest entry in the genre and it is tough stuff indeed, hard to watch but also profoundly moving.
The film begins by showing us the processing of Eric Love (O’Connell), an older youth offender, as he is moved to an adult facility. Eric is too violent and irrational to be kept with teens; he is “starred up” to live among older men who are just as messed up as he it. We watch Eric make his way through a series of doors that open up, let him in, and then clang shut with a resounding lock. Eric is stripped, searched and then clothed and led to his solitary confinement cell. Within moments he will begin to act out in ways that will jeopardize his future in prison.
We soon discover that Eric has one good reason for being so disturbed: his father Neville (Mendelsohn) is also in the same prison. Having a helicopter parent down the hall is not always such a great thing. Will Dad be a blessing, a curse, or both?
There is a compassionate group therapist (Rupert Friend) who knows how violent men act out and works valiantly to make a way for Eric and the other men in his group. But it is an uphill path at best, and Neville will get in the way of Eric’s progress at just about every turn.
Starred Up manages to make these scarred men characters that you care about. O’Connell and Mendelsohn give great performances that are full of rage and regret, with forces that push them both against and towards one another.
(This film is currently available only by streaming, but I imagine it may find a few screens in weeks to come. Check the halo and pitchfork rating first and make your own decision.)
If you do choose to view Starred Up remember that these men are the very persons Jesus came to save. And then bear in mind that it is the church, the Body of Christ that is called to proclaim Good News to the captives. We’ve got a lot of hard work to do.
Three halos: A powerful and provocative film about broken persons inside a broken prison system.
Five pitchforks: Rough language including crude sexual taunts that alternate between being misogynistic and homophobic; extreme violence; full male nudity; corruption; drug use; you can remove a pitchfork if you watch without subtitles – you may miss some of the worst language.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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