(4 / 5)
In modern western culture, the people we celebrate the most are those who have all of the outward appearances of success. Wealth and societal influence provide people with a platform to lead, but they can also mask many of the flaws of life. One the other hand, those individuals who may not have these two things can offer something to our community. Same Kind of Different as Me proves that the hero of any tale may not be the most beautiful, most influential, smartest or wealthiest person in the room.
Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) had all of the markers of success, he was a successful art dealer, drove the best of cars, and had a loving and supportive family. When he was confronted with one of his marital indiscretions, his flaws became exposed and he must rely on the forgiveness and love of his wife, Debbie (Renée Zellweger). Throughout the process of reconciliation, Ron begins to reluctantly help his wife at the local homeless mission. The couple begins to see how they can help those in the most need within their community and eventually befriend one of the most violent men in the shelter.
Denver (Djimon Hounsou) lives on the streets, but the Halls gradually unearth the past of this multi-layered man. A history that involved a life as a modern-day slave, time in prison and his struggles with violence. His initial response to Ron’s offer of friendship was sceptical and reserved. Then as the two men began to realise their need for one another, their bond began to strengthen especially when Debbie was diagnosed with cancer. This was a test of their friendship and their faith, an event that proves who they really can rely on during troubling times.
With a stellar cast that includes Zellweger, Kinnear, Hounsou and Jon Voight, it would be easy to focus on each of their performances. But, that is not the focus of this film. It would be easy to go off on a rant about the plight of homelessness around the world. Even though there are significant needs for this community, that still is not the central theme driving this story. The real driving force and value of Ron Hall’s autobiographical sketch is his view on human connectedness. Between the reconciliation of marriage and discovering true friendship in the strangest of places, this film touches on the deepest yearnings of the human heart. The need to be seen, heard and loved by others.
This movie does not contain the action, foul language and violence that will get it recognised by awards programs. First time director Michael Carney would have benefited from some strategic editing assistance, Yet, none of this detracts from the overall experience. The wisdom, gracious nature and spiritual guidance from both Debbie and Denver place these two as some of the most endearing characters in cinema. Neither of them was perfect, but their influence on people’s lives pours off the screen and manages to infiltrate the viewer’s souls.
Same Kind of Different as Me has the feel of a faith-based film without many of the trappings of this genre. A story that will have people talking for hours afterwards and hopefully motivate them to reach out to those in need in their community.
What is the value of human connection?
With stories like Same Kind of Different as Me, it does challenge our thinking on who we let speak into our lives. There is a more significant discussion to be had about homelessness. Still, this film digs in on the subject of human connectivity. It goes beyond mere friendship and shows that comfort, care, wisdom and guidance can come in many different forms.
Solomon writes this connect in this manner, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
This is one encouraging passage amongst many that talks to the value of human relationships and how God is the author of this beautiful gift to humanity. Ron and Denver’s story epitomises the need we all have to be ‘seen’ by others and known for more than our accomplishments and our names.
In a world where people have a multitude of digital friends on social platforms, what have you done to reach out to those around you? Taking the time to build into these relationships and filling that ‘true friendship’ void in their lives.