At the beginning of 2011, we began to see articles coming across the newswire from film festivals mentioning how faith was going to be a trending topic in movies this year. And indeed, two of the films in our Top 10—Of Gods and Men and TheTree of Life—are very much about belief, the first in a much more concrete way, the second via the more abstract. Furthermore, in The Help one will find scenes of biblical preaching and church community, and in Hugo there are several meaningful quotes about our purpose in this world that will ring true to a Christian ear. But the faith-in-film train made several other stops along the way this past year, and we would be remiss not to make some mention of them.
First, there were the ones you heard of, the ones you may have seen, the ones that were the most up-front about Christianity, beginning with Courageous. For some Crosswalk readers, this may have been the only film you saw in theaters this year. And you sure let us know how disappointed you were that we didn’t give it our most glowing review. But the Sherwood Pictures folks have improved with every new installment, and we wholeheartedly appreciate that cinematic art is being produced by Christians, whether it grabbed us personally or not. Beyond Courageous, Soul Surfer, Machine Gun Preacher and There Be Dragons were all based on three very different testimonies of three very different believers.
Then there were the ones you may have missed, that either passed so quietly or were independent films that didn’t receive a lot of fanfare, but which still dealt with faith in one way or another. In The Way, Martin Sheen plays the role of a father who is finishing the job of walking “The Way of Saint James” in Europe for his departed son. Eternal lessons of life and a faith journey are at the heart of the golf-centric movie Seven Days in Utopia. Tyrannosaur features an unemployed, angry widower with a drinking problem who meets a Christian worker at a charity shop, a respectable, wholesome woman who seems to be his guardian angel. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a psychological thriller about a woman trying to live a normal life after fleeing a cult. And Salvation Boulevard, starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, is a satire about a charming evangelical preacher in a small Western town who, sadly, may have ulterior motives (fittingly, this last entry received the worst reviews by far of all the films in this paragraph).
Not every film about faith is worth seeing, but when faith is present in a film it both sparks conversations and is there because conversations are already happening. Here’s hoping we see more of it in 2012.