Real life makes for great story telling. As human beings, we are intrinsically flawed yet capable of loving deeply. The best screenwriters derive their characters from the personalities of people they’ve encountered in life because the embodiment of ones’ personality and life choices never leaves the page empty. The newest faith-based drama to hit the theaters – All Saints – may not always hit the mark in stellar acting, but it does an excellent job of portraying how God works through us and often in spite of us.
Michael Spurlock, played by well-known actor John Corbett, is a paper salesman turned pastor who just wanted to slow the pace of his corporate life and spend more time with his wife, Aimee Spurlock (Cara Buono), and son Atticus (Myles Moore).
From the out-set we are aware that Spurlock isn’t your typical people-pleasing reverend. Upon taking his oath to serve the church, the Bishop (Gregory Alan Williams) goes off script a bit requiring Spurlock to vow that he will follow the leadership of the church even when he doesn’t always agree. It might just take a pastor who doesn’t follow directions to save the All Saints church from its’ intended demise. Spurlock’s sole purpose for this pastoral position was to lead the congregation through selling its 100-acre property. He also hoped to guide a few life-long members, such as Ruth (Chonda Pierce), into thriving churches already in the community. He struggled a bit with the task at hand as he watched a community of believers, who were a true family in every sense of the word, begin the process of losing their church home.
Just like life, the script isn’t predictable. As the church is boxing up and making final preparations to close, a group of refugees arrive from war-torn Burma. They have no money and no place to go. They are led by Ye Win. He is a fighter with a gentle heart and a desire to help save his community. Nelson Lee shines in this role with his authentic performance. Spurlock is drawn to help Win and his people, who are Karen farmers.
Spurlock believes he hears the Lord telling him to fight for the church and help the Karen people. His idea to allow the Karen to farm the land on the church will provide them food and work, while the leftover crop will also help fund the churches hefty mortgage. It’s a win/win straight from the Almighty. Or is it?
It’s refreshing to see the characters wondering if it’s truly the voice of the Lord speaking to them. It leaves them doubting the Lord’s will and their faith. Haven’t we all been here? This aspect of the movie makes it relatable. The characters asking some of the same questions we’ve all had and likely ones we’ve been afraid to say out loud.
Spurlock’s plan isn’t infallible and certainly there are more than a few hitches along the way. While the land may be primed for farming and the laborers ready for work, the needed resources for watering aren’t readily available. Just when we think the Lord has answered the prayers of Reverend Spurlock and Ye Win, a torrential rain comes and takes a good portion of the crop. What we see though is that the church has quickly turned into an unlikely community of believers all working toward the same goal and all experiencing the highs and lows together as any family would.
A special kinship is born between Ye Win, born in Southeast Asia, and an elderly church member, Forrest, played by Barry Corbin. They find common ground in the stories they share of fighting for their country and seeing the unfathomable atrocities of war. We are drawn to their relationship as it is just what the world needs in days like these.
The film’s director, Steve Gomer, and the screenwriter, Steve Armour, have managed to make a faith-based movie that reaches outside the lines of religion in a time when politics, arguments, and wars are all said in Jesus’ name. It’s refreshing to see characters that struggle to know whether or not they truly heard from the Lord, but still following the teachings of Jesus. Loving others, regardless of their differences and finding common ground when we serve each other and work together for the good of the community.
You’ll find this film even more endearing as the credits roll and you learn that it is about a real-life congregation and that it was filmed in Smyrna, Tennessee using actual members of the All Saints church.
Real stories, real people, real life – it’s the cherry on top of this script. May it be the little movie that could; reminding us all that even when we aren’t sure we are in the center of God’s will, following the life of Jesus – loving, serving, and giving our lives away always tells a good story.