The movie is based on Miller’s spiritual journey from a Texas Baptist boy to Reed College pagan and back to a more mature Christianity.
The book is a post-modern spiritual classic that is interesting and insightful, while at the same time authentic and convicting. It is, however, so good it promises more than a movie can deliver.
The movie begins by showing us Don’s (Marshall Allman) fundamentalist Baptist culture before heading off to college. The scene in Miller’s Baptist church, complete with racially insensitive puppetry to illustrate truths from the Bible, is so cringeadelic it made me want to backslide.
Shortly after arriving at Reed College, which prides itself as the most godless campus in America, Don abandons Christianity. In the movie, everything and anything is accepted at Reed, except Christianity, and Don’s desire to be accepted by others leads him away from Jesus.
I’ll save some suspense on how Don finds his way back to Christianity, except to say this was the part where I felt the movie could have done better. This was where the book shined and unfortunately it’s where the movie stumbles a bit. I don’t want to be too critical though because the movie does a much better job in capturing the process of spiritual awakening than most of the other “Christian” movies I’ve seen.
Perhaps its greatest contribution is as a Christian movie that breaks the sappy, predictable, culturally religious feel of the genre. In that respect, it’s groundbreaking. As a result, it’s a movie that should appeal to non-Christians. Like the book, the movie’s authenticity makes Truth palatable.
If you’ve not read the book, see the movie first, but then read the book. If you’ve read the book, you will probably want to see the movie and you should. This is a good start on where Christian movie-making should be headed, unless of course, it wants to continue to preach to the choir.
Lastly, the movie’s PG13 rating is not gratuitous. To those who would reject the movie on that basis alone, I’m sure there are puppet shows at one of the local churches you might find less objectionable. Peace. GS