MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Sony Pictures/Affirm Films
Directed by Steve Gomer. Starring Cara Buono, John Corbett
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Sure, you’ve heard these words plenty of times. They’re found in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. Usually they evoke a feeling of unease and guilt as we ponder the ways in which we often fall short of Christ’s invitation to put faith into action. But what if I told you about a movie with a true-life story that could serve as a modern-day example for this important teaching, appropriate for all ages and filled with characters that you cared about?
Michael Spurlock (Corbett) is a former paper salesman and second-career Episcopal priest, newly ordained and sent by his bishop (Gregory Alan Williams) to Smyrna, TN to take inventory and close down a parish that has dwindled in size, no longer able to meet its mortgage payments. Spurlock’s wife and son (Cara Buono and Myles Moore) are along for the ride; after all, it’s not supposed to take more than a few weeks and Spurlock is promised that the next appointment will reward his faithfulness.
Michael is unwilling to simply conduct the church’s funeral, so he prints off a few flyers and puts them up on bulletin boards in town announcing the “new” All Saints Church. One of the flyers is posted in the welfare office where it catches the eye of some Karen refugees from Myanmar, Christians who are out of work and seeking housing and employment. Since one of them is able to speak English, he brings a group of his friends to worship. Spurlock cannot easily ignore these needy families. But what exactly is God calling him to do? His bishop wants him to close the church, his congregation is struggling, and there doesn’t seem to be a quick or easy solution to their problems.
Spurlock is a former salesman, and he knows how to deal with getting doors slammed in his face and how to get folks motivated. And – wouldn’t you know it? – these people are beginning to touch his heart. Things are never simple or easy for anyone, but out of such struggles and moments of defeat, something wonderful is being created.
This is really an entertaining film, with much humor and heart. Barry Corbin plays a cranky retired Vietnam War vet (the sort of role that Wilford Brimley used to play) whose reluctant friendship will be crucial for Spurlock’s hopes for the church to come to fruition. And Spurlock’s relationship with God is complicated. He struggles with his denominational leaders, is challenged by his wife and his son, resistant to doing the right thing, and hesitant to receiving advice from Ye Win (Nelson Lee), his Karen advisor/co-leader, who reminds him that he needs to ask for help. God’s answers to prayer aren’t exactly obvious, either.
All Saints begins is a typical faith-based movie fashion with some corny dialogue and cartoonish parishioners. But then it starts shifting gears and keeps getting better and better. It’s one sneaky little comedy-drama and also one of the most under-reviewed films of the year. Do yourself a favor and try to see it before it leaves town.
Five halos: An uplifting story of faith and understanding, entertaining for all ages with exceptional theology that embraces the inclusive community of the Kingdom of God.
One pitchfork: A brief verbal recollection of wartime atrocities; one scene of mild violence.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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