(Photo courtesy of www.allsaintsmovie.com)
Film Review: ‘All Saints’
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
By Sarah Komisky
“Community” is a word that has been getting a lot of hype these days. It’s in the news, written on pages of bestsellers, and it’s the desire of most people I know. Yet, when it comes to community, does it also mean exclusion? Sony’s recent release, “All Saints,” explores this uncharted territory being brave enough to not shy away from the hard questions. While most think of a “Christian Film” as a feel-good-flick with an obvious plot and poor acting, “All Saints,” breaks several stigmas regarding the Christian faith with honest portrayals of real people with real struggles in need of each other. In a time of current disunity, “All Saints” extends an olive branch to a world in need of love and hope.
Inspired by a true story, actor John Corbett (best known for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) portrays real life pastor Michael Spurlock who is ready to pack his bags from his small congregation (All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee) and go back to his job as a salesman. On the verge of change, he meets an unexpected group of refugees from Southeast Asia who move him in a new, divine direction. As a final act to redeem what is lost, the unlikely team bands together to use their resources to farm in order to provide for a fading church and hungry people.
The crisis brings unlikely people together like a rough around the edges Vietnam vet (Barry Corbin, “Country for Old Men”) as well as the Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma, particularly a man named Ye Win (Nelson Lee, “Law & Order,” “Hawaii Five-O”) who becomes a steady encourager in the mix. These characters alongside others of all ages remind us of the eclectic and messy mix of human beings that beautifully make up the church.
Despite the naysayers, the team rises up and commits to the cause inviting their community, including their non-believing produce guy, to join them in a farming project that transforms them. As a drama would have it, the movie takes an unexpected turn that forces the movie characters to undergo some serious growth. When all seems lost and when life doesn’t make sense, the congregation courageously continues to come together even if things didn’t turn out as planned. In this way, director Steve Gomer and screenwriter Steve Armour do a remarkable job of creating believable tension that resembles our lives in many ways.
As the course is re-directed, the Smyrna community is reminded that there is a bigger plan unfolding exactly how God intended, for an even greater purpose.
In turn, the film doesn’t condemn when characters begin to question (which is an added bonus). Modeling Biblical models before them like Job or David, the characters in this film are free express their doubts, fears, and frustrations when they can only see what is in front of them. Therefore, each character is put in a position to look with eyes of faith. Another plus is that the film doesn’t highlight the protagonist as a superhero pastor void of real emotions, which is also really likeable and relatable. Instead, pain is used as a way to mold the character, refining him in the fire instead of pulling him directly out of it.
Another aspect that makes it a must-see is that it is a true story filmed on location at All Saints Episcopal Church (including members of the All Saints parish in supporting roles). This very act enforces the message of unity throughout the film because it’s proof of its very existence! While some cynics, including film critics, point fingers for not having enough conflict when it comes to the treatment of the Karen refugees, I disagree. While prejudice still remains in the film (especially at inception), it is also worked through as the film unfolds in various degrees with various characters. This illustrates the message that community can exist despite our differences and is celebrated in the film’s closing credits where real footage from the film’s real-life movie counterparts is shown.
Opting out of a movie filled with all sunshine and lollipops, “All Saints” refreshingly reminds moviegoers to be prepared to be surprised and also encourages them to explore the idea of God being sovereign, working all things for the good of those He loves, if we put our faith in Him. Both endearing and honest, “All Saints” appeals because of it’s realism but also because of it’s supernaturalism that coexist. In the end, viewers can walk away inspired to be apart of the solution instead of the problem, in a time of chaos and disunity, which makes the film a winner overall.