2017, PG, 108 min. Directed by Steve Gomer. Starring Cara Buono, John Corbett, Barry Corbin, David Keith.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 1, 2017
In the world of faith-based films, All Saints strikes an unusual tone in its devotion to good storytelling over proselytism. Doing the first thing well, it seems to assume, will prompt the rest to follow. Based on a true story, this film is sure to evoke admiration, if not converts.
In one of his most focused performances, John Corbett (Sex and the City, Northern Exposure) stars as Michael Spurlock, a newly ordained pastor who is sent to a little Anglican church in Smyrna, Tenn., to oversee its dismantling and eventual sale to strip-mall developers. Spurlock is approached for help by Ye Win (Lee), the leader of a ragtag group of Karen refugees from Myanmar. They are Episcopalians who have fled their homeland and are in need of just about everything. Soon, Spurlock has a visitation from God, who advises him to convert the church’s ample acreage to farmland to be worked by the Karen in an effort to make them self-sufficient. Or maybe it wasn’t the voice of God he heard, as Spurlock is the first to admit, but merely his own ego. It’s a nice touch in this film that doesn’t take God as an unquestionable absolute.
After Spurlock’s decision to buck his bishops and move ahead with the scheme, the rest of the film follows a predictable course. The church community must learn to come together, Spurlock’s wife and son must adapt, crops must be planted only to battle the vagaries of nature and acts of God, the church elders will present roadblocks, etc. It’s all presented in a dramatically sound and nonpreachy manner. An extra assist comes from having been shot on location at Smyrna’s All Saints church. If nothing else, the film provides an enlightening look into the Karen diaspora, and a healthy reminder that God’s work is not contained by a sanctuary’s walls.