Review: ‘All Saints’ is an inspirational film with a theological curveball
Michael Spurlock is a pastor trying to find his footing at a new church, a tiny country congregation in Tennessee.
But the first few months haven’t been, well, rosy.
He took the position within the diocese under the agreement that he would close the struggling church – which has roughly 12 members – and sell the land. His assignment grew more difficult when dozens of poor refugees from Southeast Asia began attending.
“What do you think will happen to them when we leave?” his worried son asks.
Spurlock doesn’t know the answer, but he refuses to let the refugees starve. Then one night while strolling through the church property, he senses a word from God.
“God spoke to me,” he tells his wife. “He wants us to turn the land around the church into a farm.”
The goal: use the refugees’ farming skills to grow crops, which then can be sold to fund the church and to feed the people.
It sounds like a good plan, but will it work? And will the diocese agree to allow it?
The faith-based film All Saints (PG) is entering its third weekend in theaters and follows the true story of an Episcopal pastor whose church took in dozens of refugees nearly a decade ago and made national headlines for his unique strategy of turning the church’s fields into farmland. It stars John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Spurlock and Cara Buono (Stranger Things, Mad Men) as his wife, Aimee. Comedian Chonda Pierce also has a role.
The movie spotlights the plight of the Karen refugees who fled Myanmar (Burma) due to a lengthy civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Let’s examine the details …
Minimal. A misunderstanding leads a police officer to hit someone. We also hear about the Myanmar civil war.
None, other than a “screwed,” “crap” and a “sucks.”
Other Positive Elements
Michael’s desire to help the Karen people is inspiring. Standing in front of a luncheon of town leaders, a frustrated Spurlock tells them, “How can you sit there chewing on $30 steaks and let people starve?”
Yet in the end, his family and most members of the church – including a bullheaded man named Forrest – agree to help the Karen people.
Other Negative Elements
All Saints forces us to confront some uncomfortable questions: Are we truly willing to help those who look different than us? Would we help the needy if doing so risked our financial security and potentially our careers – not to mention our personal comfort? Do we treat refugees as Jesus would treat them?
Scripture tells us to “count others more significant” than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). That’s counter-cultural in our me-first society, but it’s the theme of All Saints.
The refugees were Christians, having landed in Spurlock’s church because they were members of an Anglican congregation back home. (The Episcopal denomination is the U.S. branch of the Anglican body.) “We don’t choose who God sends to our door,” he tells diocese officials.
All Saints is a God-centered story with a happy ending, but it also tosses us a theological curveball when the church’s farm floods. “If God wanted you to plant the crops, then why did He flood them?” Spurlock’s son asks. Spurlock answers, “I don’t know, son.” I don’t know, either, although it’s easy to come up with a few guesses by watching the film’s conclusion.
This one is clean enough for the entire family. Of course, whether it will keep the interest of little ones is a different issue. I’m confident that my 9-year-old son would enjoy it. But my 5-year-old daughter? Probably not.
What I Liked
Corbett does a fine job in his role as Spurlock. I also enjoyed the interaction between Spurlock and Forrest. Finally, Chonda Pierce is (not surprisingly) funny.
What I Didn’t Like
All Saints, like a lot of faith-based movies, is too long. Some of the acting by secondary characters is clumsy, too. Yet those minor problems are overshadowed by solid performances from others and by the message.
Thumbs Up … Or Down?
- What did Jesus mean when He said to help “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40)?
- What would you do if dozens of refugees showed up at your church?
- Are we more, or less, likely to help people who look different from us? Why?
- From a biblical perspective, when are we required to help refugees? Is such help always mandatory?
Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
All Saints is rated PG for thematic elements.