Monday, 10 April 2017

The Shack (4 Stars)

Let's start off by saying that if you're a serious Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant, you'll probably find this film offensive. If you're a follower of another religion, such as Islam or Buddhism, you'll be alienated by the content. If you're an atheist you'll probably find it stupid. That means it will only appeal to you if you're a free thinker or a non-dogmatic Christian. It's a niche film that tugs at the heart strings without offering any real spiritual content.

Nevertheless, I found that the film spoke to me personally, despite the soppy country music interspersed with Christian pop songs.

Mackenzie Phillips (Mack) has grown up in a God-fearing community of church goers. His father was a church elder, a good man in church but a bad man at home, where he frequently used to get drunk and beat his wife and children. This wasn't enough to put him off religion. As a man he has a loving wife and three young children, and he sings the hymns loud in church every Sunday.

One weekend he takes his children on a Christian outing, a two day camping trip. His six-year-old daughter disappears. Her body is later found in a mountain shack. The police inform him that she's the victim of a serial killer who has already killed five other children. This destroys his faith and his family life. He no longer goes to church because he blames God for his daughter's death. His family is alienated and they hardly speak to one another.

A few years later Mack is seriously considering suicide, when he receives a letter. God is inviting him to travel to the shack where his daughter's body was found. This is the last place he would ever visit. At first he thinks it's a hoax, but the letter was hand delivered and there are no footprints in the snow, so he decides to travel to the shack.

When Mack arrives at the shack he finds it inhabited by three people, who claim to the the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In a blatant presentation of gender confusion Octavia Spencer claims to be God and calls herself Papa. Mack spends the next two days talking to the three persons. They offer to make him the judge, and he has to tell them what they've done wrong. I won't go into it in any more detail. Spoilers!

Even as I was watching the film in the cinema I was putting myself into Mack's place. I would love to meet God, and I would be especially happy if I found out that God is a woman. Many of the questions that Mack asks are questions that I would ask. Then God has questions for Mack, and the answers he gives aren't necessarily the ones I would give.

I would love to meet God. If I found out that God looks like Octavia Spencer I would become an instant believer. I would challenge God on the questions that I have burning in my mind, some of which I presented in my review of "Silence". However, I suspect that Octavia's charm would overwhelm me into backing down in much of my criticism that I have of God.

It's a very good film, but it could have been better. Why did Mack have to meet the whole Trinity in the shack? It would have been enough just to meet with God herself. Jesus (on the left in the top photo in this post) seems to be a pleasant enough character as a drinking buddy, but he doesn't provide anything that God couldn't have done without him. The Holy Spirit, who calls herself Sarayu, moves around like a new age hippy, but she has little purpose in the film. If the shack had been inhabited by only one person, God, the film would have been accessible to a wider audience.

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