Films like All Saints present an interesting challenge to film reviewers who are Christian. The reputation of Christian cinema and the inevitable comparison to the broader world of the film industry make for quite a juxtaposition. Production companies have seen the lucrative side of this market, but the genre continues to maintain the same reputation. Few films within this classification are able to break out and appeal to the broader cinematic audience, but every once and awhile the stories draw the general populace into theatres. Will the true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett) and All Saints Church make people want to come back to cinemas and maybe even church?
Pastor Spurlock was brought in by the local Episcopal diocese to close down the struggling church in rural Tennessee. At first Michael and his family were reserved to ministering to the church family while the building was being sold off to developers until a God-inspired moment changed this process. The catalyst for the change was found in a community of Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma who started to attend the church services. Under the leadership of Ye Win (Nelson Lee), this small group of immigrants convince the new pastor to risk it all to save the church by utilising the land for crops. Threatening their reputation with the church leadership and their livelihood, the Spurlocks partner with this newly Americanised group to save their church and the local community.
The performances from John Corbett and Cara Buono as the Spurlocks did provide the heart to this tale of small-town Tennessee. Their relationship serves as the centrality needed to connect the multifaceted components of the film together. This connection with the Karen refugees, the upper church hierarchy and the local community of believers made each element believable and accessible. This feel-good story is accessible for all ages and regardless of their faith position. The most shocking element is the lack of course language and violence, which has become a mainstay in filmmaking. This may cause some to judge it as being overly sanitised, but within this class of film it does not distract from the overall experience.
The timeless truths of All Saints are hard to deny. The challenges of immigrants adjusting to new surroundings, watching the reliance of pastors on God as opposed to the wisdom of man and that many times great opposition pushes people to their best responses in life. These themes are on offer in a multitude of films, but what differentiates this film from others comes down to the packaging. Television-turned-feature film director Steve Gomer chose to go with the sweeter and abridged version that will appeal to the target market within the Christian community. This does not diminish the impact of the story and even though it may not be an Academy Award-winning outing, it does provide an exceptional family friendly film option at the cinema.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Risk: exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance
Faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing
All Saints opens the door to the consideration of risk-taking versus faith-based decisions. Risk taking is a part of every part of life. Merely getting out of bed in the morning can be perilous for some people.
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Ecclesiastes 11:4-6
The topic of risk opens up another topic of faith. For the risk takers in life, many may have different answers to what they put their faith in during the decision making process. Is it themselves, others or God that they trust in when talking risks?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5
Regardless of the answer to the above question, one thing can be said. Trusting in God does provide a peace that surpasses understanding. It does not eliminate the fact that risk comes into everyone’s life, but with God the results are squarely in His hands and in the end makes the risk, well… less risky.
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