It can be difficult to review movies like this because the film is meant to be personal to the viewer. I'll offer a technical review and then give comments about how the film affected me.
Overall the film kept my attention. I think that much of this was due to the fact that I was curious to see how they balanced the ... arguments? ... of both believers and non-believers. For the most part I think they did a good job in this area. Full disclosure - I am a non-believer and overall I think that the statements made by Poole were reflective of what I would want to say in the various situations. And the statements made by the believers mirror what I've been asked in my own life.
And then, the ending. Brutal. Not necessarily because of how they ended it but how the ending was conveyed. It was almost like they had had lunch dates to get to and everyone just wanted to go home. I mean, in a couple of really poor exchanges they just brushed a bunch of things under the rug and ended it. Worse, what I thought was a mostly-balanced examination of both sides of the equation was really slanted toward one side when all was said and done. There is a line of where media crosses in to a veritable Christian Hallmark Channel movie where in the end people just want to feel good about their belief (more on this later). The film straddled that line for the first 90 minutes and then unapologetically obliterated it. And there is nothing wrong with that except I thought the film had a chance at being something that honestly examined belief.
I may be giving the film too much credit for trying to honestly trying to examine belief because there were subtle clues that indicated otherwise. As a non-believer I had several problems with the film. Once again I'll state that this is how the film affected me personally. On a lot of levels the film was like a Rorschach test for viewers.
First, the portrayal of the non-believer vs. the believers was striking. The non-believe was unkempt and surly while the believers were smiling and jovial. And it wasn't just outward appearances - during one throwaway scene one character said that atheism and unhappiness go together. Seeing as this character had no other lines in the film and the other character in the scene didn't argue the point this was clearly inserted for a reason.
Second, who said Poole was even a non-believer? Maybe he just didn't believe that people are supernaturally healed. I know plenty of devout believers that reject supernatural interference in our lives. His monologue in the middle of the film was actually very good - there is a need among many believers to be reassured that others feel the same way. It is not unlike reading an apologetics books as they are all the same - they can't prove anything themselves so they rely on other "experts" who feel the same way but also don't have any proof.
Also, who said he wanted or needed to be saved (as if saving was a real thing)? As he said, they all kept ramming their beliefs down his throat. There was this man living a peaceful and quiet life yet they wouldn't leave him alone despite being asked to do so. In religious circles it is perfectly acceptable to go door to door trying to change people's beliefs (or worse, go to poor places all over the world with the offer of food in return that they lose their own beliefs) but every believer that I've ever met can remember (with great disdain) the moment a non-believer spoke their mind. A non-believer isn't someone that doesn't believe in a prime mover. The non-believer (or non-theist) is someone that rejects all of the thousands of badly plagiarized creation stories that (incorrectly) described where we came from while claiming to know where we are going. They don't claim to have the answers or to know that there isn't a higher power.
I did laugh out loud at the idea of the Catholic Church wanting to test for evidence as that is something that has never ended well for them (see the Shroud of Turin). This is after all the group that recently legitimized exorcisms.
For some reason miracles are used as some kind of proof of a belief. I've always found this odd in that a miracle is something that can't happen in the natural world. It is NOT what we can't explain or what seems extremely unlikely as unlikely events happen all of the time. People can beat cancer even thought told by doctors that it won't happen. People win the lottery. Nobody prays for their limb to grow back as that doesn't happen in the real world. I completely understand why people have beliefs - it just seems that falling back on the ideas of miracles as proof is an area that I wouldn't go if I were them. It isn't a coincidence that the reported miracles stopped happening once literacy improved around the world. There is a reason why there aren't any new messiahs. Also, it shows a bit of arrogance on those that claim the miracle. So the big kahuna placed a magic face on the side of a house in Cali but every night millions of kids go to bed hungry?
And then, some of the quotes. "If you look, you'll find". Absolutely true of anything in this world regardless of what you're talking about. That alone says all you need to know. "Everything happens for a reason" - the popular refrain of first-world believers that have food in their pantries and a clean bill of health. Ugh, that one has always been a gut punch for me. Anyone who has ever believed this should be forced to walk through a children's hospital until this notion is driven out of them.
It's a shame that the film didn't take a different turn and just left it as an honest portrayal of the idea of belief rather than just being a feel-good movie for Christians (again, I am not saying that they can't have such films). In a way it reminded me of the Life of Pi in reverse - that movie was complete shite for the first 2 hours only to be saved in the last 5 minutes but slapping us across the face with an excellent philosophical question. It also reminded me of The Blind Side in that it took a completely condescending look at a human being (in that case a poor young black man) that needed to be saved. Then again, what that movie did was unforgivable in that it created a fictionalized version of the actual events to please the people that want to hear the reassuring story of their group's goodness.
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