I have been doing film reviews for well over a decade. I used to do them a lot more frequently because I wrote for a publication which often had me screening 2-4 films a week. Over the years I have slowed down. It’s funny because what developed in me, as a movie watcher, was a critical pickiness which often turned off the family or friends that watched it with me. I was analyzing so much that I wasn’t taking time to enjoy. Since movies are some of my absolute favorite things, this was a real crimp in my enjoyment of life. Once I began to notice it myself, I began to annoy myself.
I loved (and still do) quality indie films. Rom Coms, (which aren’t around much anymore) found me super cynical as I ripped them to shreds. Major blockbuster films often fared worse. The films which got the brunt of my criticism however were those films genred under the Christian label. I’d go into it usually annoyed before the opening credits, shredder ready. I made myself miserable…
I’ve calmed down a lot. Working in a critic vein isn’t healthy for anyone, for long. Nit picking has a way of souring someone. I was sour. It was sad. A few years ago a little movie came out titled Moms Night Out. I had so many friends who went and loved it. Being in that genre I would usually avoid it, but this one afternoon I made an exception. Were there things in it that I could have torn apart? Yes. Was the quality Academy worthy? No. But the most important question is: Did I enjoy it? I did. And I watched as my husband and youngest left the theater appearing to be bracing themselves for my rainstorm of misery. The shock and awe which rippled in waves through their expressions was not lost on me.
In the last year I have made an effort to rewatch several of the Christian themed films I had hated. Maybe it’s because my life was beyond broken. Maybe it is because I had been rained down upon and shredded by a few people who felt entitled to critique my life. Maybe it is simply that I was looking anywhere for inspiration, hope and direction. (If you’re wondering, yes, my opinions were different. Perspective is everything.)
When I was asked to screen and review Greater, I was not thrilled. I accepted because I love movies and will watch most anything. I wasn’t super excited about it though because, well- other than being a football movie, (not my thing) old habits die hard. I was afraid I would tear it to bits. I’m not.
Greater is the story of, as I’ve now mentioned on this blog a dozen + times, the story of Brandon Burlsworth. Brandon was a football player for University of Arkansas. His story is the very epitome of an underdog rising to the top in an extraordinary way. This part of his story is uplifting, inspiring, moving and every single thing a film should be. The high points for me were:
- the film is not strong religious. It is honest in its story about this boy’s life.
- the cinematography is beautiful. There are scenes so poetically shot that my heart caught in my throat.
- the performances in this movie are raw and authentic. The human struggles they portray are relatable and felt.
- Christopher Severio (Brandon) is very watchable, relatable and is so believable, in this role, that it’s natural to root for him.
These things, of their own, could be enough. The real meat of the story though, is not Brandon’s story at all, but his brother’s. Is this part of the tale fictionalized? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, because Brandon’s brother Marty (played flawlessly by Neal McDonough) is a story we all will struggle with a million times before we die. It is the struggle for our hearts. The battle between allowing our perception of any given circumstance to be one of the misery it involves, or allowing ourselves to step out and embrace the beauty and love floating within the misery.
Though this movie is under the Christian genre, this film (to me) is simply a life film. A film about how to grieve, and how not to grieve. A story about how to live, versus how not to live. A big picture motivator to remind us that our lives are so much bigger than the seconds we make mundane decisions for today, and we leave behind a legacy that can extend far beyond us. Each and every one of us… There is a greatness in our lives that often times we choose to ignore in favor of the less-than-great.
If Greater opens near you, I really encourage you to see it. I doubt you’d be sorry…