Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Shack: It's Not About Religion, It's About Healing

Movie Review: The Shack (2017)
Version: Library borrow

If you're turned off by religion-based films ... hold on, The Shack is different! This one doesn't try to convert you and, at least in my mind, this one isn't sickly sweet. It actually answers some pretty basic questions on a lot of peoples' minds about God and when bad things happen, and it addresses how we heel as wounded individuals. It ministers to a character but it doesn't preach to us. It's a story.

Mack Phillips has suffered some tragedies in his life, the most traumatic the recent loss of his youngest daughter Missy while under his care at a camp. Someone abducted her while he was rescuing his older daughter and son during a canoe incident on a lake, and while police find evidence of her abduction at a nearby shack, the body is never found. Mack feels a deep remorse that tears him apart, also pulling him apart from his other family relationships. Months later, still mourning, he receives a letter he assumes is a taunt from the abductor inviting him to encounter him back at the shack, and he goes to take on the killer of his daughter. But when we goes he finds an encounter of an entirely different kind. There, he meets God in three persons, who challenge his notions of loss, guilt, judgment, revenge, and forgiveness. As an audience, we may find ourselves challenged in our notions as well, including of who God is and how God works in our daily lives.

The Shack features a very good cast, including Sam Worthington as Mack and, very interestingly, Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer as Papa (God the nurturing "Father") as well as Native American Graham Greene as Papa (God the "Father" when you need strength). Avraham Aviv Alush plays Messia (God the Son) and Sumire Matsubara plays Sarayu (which means "the wind", God the Holy Spirit). It's a fine ensemble cast that plays heavenly intervention on a strictly human level -- casting no lightning bolts, no fire and brimstone, only serenity.

There is also an amazing garden filled with wild flowers, in which Sarayu asks Mack to help her prepare the area for a big event the next day. To say more than that would be to provide spoilers, but what follows the next day can be gut wrenching and beautiful at the same time.

This is a film that I warn you starts off kind of cheesy but soon becomes beautiful and then powerful. I challenge you to watch it all the way through. If by the end you decide I was wrong, I'll allow you to wag your finger at me and tell me I was wrong. But I think you'll find The Shack is much less about religion and way more about healing. 

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