I love going to the theater to see the new movies. Rarely do I miss a movie unless I just think it’s going to be horrible, and even then, I just wait until I can catch it online or with a DVD. Last night, I took my family to see The Shack. This movie has been at the top of my ‘list of movies I must see in 2017’ and I will tell you upfront that while it was not the best movie I’ve ever seen (not by a long shot) it was well worth the wait to finally sit down and watch it.
First, let me start with this. Whether you are a Christian or not, you may want to see The Shack. I’ve seen a few debates on whether ‘real’ Christians should watch the film because, as some have stated, it’s a film that mocks God or, as an ex Facebook friend told me a few nights ago, the film was blasphemous against the one true God and no true Christian should watch it. If you have heard any of those things, I would advise just as I would in essentially any situation in life, ignore the warnings and go see the movie and form your own opinion.
Does the film mention God? Or Jesus? Or even the Holy Spirit? It absolutely does and as a matter of fact, it not only mentions them, but it shows them in a light that most movies just don’t. In most Christian, or faith-based movies, when God is mentioned, He is only mentioned as a spirit and is not seen in the movie at all. That is, unless it’s a comedic film starring Morgan Friedman. While many of us can picture how we may believe God may look like, we never actually see him in physical form in a drama film setting. The Shack brings a wide range of emotions to life from one moment to the next throughout the film.
Based on the bestselling novel The Shack, written by William Paul Young, Stuart Halzedine’s film is about a man, grieving the loss of a daughter and slipping away from his wife and two surviving children as he falls deeper and deeper into his grief and anger at her murder. This movie had tears quietly fogging up my eyesight within the first fifteen minutes of action. By the twenty-five-minute mark, I was beyond tears and found myself wishing that I had thought to bring a personal package of Kleenex to the theater with me.
Synopsis of The Shack
For those who may have been completely away from any form of social media, news outlets or movie commercials in the past month or two, here’s a quick breakdown of what the film is about. Unlike in many other highly rated Christian movies, The Shack went about shining light on God, love, grief and other raw emotions in a very unique, yet meaningful way.
Played by actor Sam Worthington, Mack, a man who has lost his daughter to a seemingly violent abduction and assumed murder, finds a mysterious note signed by someone named “Papa” in his mailbox one snowy afternoon. Papa just happens to the name that Mack’s wife Nan, played by actress Radha Mitchell, uses for God. The letter is an invitation for Mack to come to the shack, a cabin in the middle of the woods where Missy, his now deceased daughter’s bloody dress was found after she disappeared during a family camping trip. Mack doesn’t know who placed the letter in the box, but we are led to believe he may think it’s from the killer himself trying to taunt Mack.
He does what any grieving and angry father would do and he goes to his neighbor, and best friend Willie who is played by country music artist Tim McGraw, and asks to borrow his truck to check the shack out. Willie tells him he will go with him and as Willie is grabbing some fishing gear, Mack takes off in the truck to head to the shack on his own. Once he arrives at the shack, the real storyline begins and this is where many people have become divided on the religious aspects of the movie.
As the trailer to the film suggested, Mack finds himself in the presence of The Trinity, yet in this film, many moviegoers may be a little surprised to see that the Trinity is being portrayed uniquely. God the Father is an African American woman (Octavia Spencer) and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman (Sumire Matsubara) and the Son of God is played by Israeli actor Avraham Aviv Alush. This is one reason that some have claimed the movie is a heretical, blasphemous and wrong. Some even claim that the film promotes Devil worshipping or worshipping Goddesses instead of God. Personally, I disagree with anyone who claims the film is heretical in any way. First, I doubt they have even ventured out to their local theatre to watch the movie and second, well, if they haven’t watched the movie, their views really have no impact on the reality of the movie.
Should it matter that a film, a fictional tale, portrays God as a woman? I don’t feel that the views expressed in The Shack have a bearing on who God is when it comes to the truth of the matter. The characters in the movie work with Mack to show him that God is compassionate, loving and that he wants the best for all of us. It shows viewers that those times we consider especially difficult are not things that God wants for us, as God loves each of His children equally, but God wants us to be able to determine within our own mind what we want our path in life to be.
The film shows several tough decisions that Mack must make in regards to judging others, forgiveness and even the love he has for his own family. He must face his daughter’s death while also learning to understand where God is when bad things happen. Something that people need to realize is the fact that Jesus told stories to get the attention of those he preached to. Why is it wrong today for a writer to tell a story that will garner attention to show readers, or movie goers in this case, who God is and to show us that he is there, even if the movie portrays God as an African American woman?
In the world today, there are thousands of people who would never pick up a Bible, much less take time out of their week to stop for an hour and attend a church service. Whether they should or not is not the point. The point is this movie, and the book that came before, is a way to reach out to people and share God. While The Shack does not go into detail about the Bible, it is absolutely a starting point for a conversation with someone who may know nothing about God or who may feel confused about God and the words of the Bible.
As a Christian, I would recommend the possibility of using this film as a tool to speak to someone about God, and show them the true love and compassion that the Bible says we are supposed to show others. If you are not a Christian, then it might be nice to take some time to watch the movie and just enjoy the raw emotion that exudes throughout. Whether you leave with a higher understanding of God or not, you’ll leave with a few things to think about, or at least with a little feeling of love and compassion for others tucked nicely inside your mind.
Who Should Watch The Shack
Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Rastafarian, Atheist or even a member of the Pastafarianism movement, The Shack is a movie with many emotional scenes. From dealing with the death of a vibrant, spunky and beautiful little girl to seeing scenes of child abuse, guilt, anger and raw emotional sadness, unless you have a heart of steel, you better make sure to bring a Kleenex or two or ten with you or you’ll be walking out of the theater with your held down in hopes that no one will notice your swollen eyes and tear stained face as you walk to the car.
The film is great for adults and teens and I recommend it to both. I’ve been asked several times if I felt it was good for younger children. My answer to that is that it greatly depends on your child, their maturity level and the types of movies they generally enjoy watching. My daughter, an elementary school aged child, was bored and fell asleep within the first twenty minutes and she slept until the movie was over. If action and adventure is your forte’, you may want to sit this one out. While it is perfect for those who love heartfelt movies and like a good cry scene, it does move at a slow pace in the beginning (and honestly, even in the middle and end) but overall, it is a highly emotional film and one that truly has an engaging storyline.
Watch: The Shack Official Movie Trailer from Lionsgate Films