A QUESTION OF FAITH review

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Awe man, this is either going to hurt or it’ going to be entertaining as hell.

Usually I’m not one for a Pure Flix film mostly because they involve pandering to the religious community rather than actually promoting true religious beliefs like compassion, peace, and love as originally was intended, opting instead to push an agenda promoting ironically hate and falsities, making the religious community out to be persecuted or victims of absolutely nothing.

It comes as a bit of a shock for me to say that, mostly because I don’t actually watch Pure Flix films. In fact, the only movie that I have seen by them was THE CASE FOR CHRIST (2017). However, I am a fan of Stoned Gremlin Productions on YouTube and Brad Jones, aka, the Cinema Snob, has made me a fan of his and his group of friends as he rages against these films, be them entertaining or spiteful. Through him, I have seen what these films are about and have no real interest to visit them anytime soon. But if they come out in theaters… well, I’m a glutton for abuse.

The story looks like it’s about these three different religious families. A tragedy happens and each family tries to find a way to deal with it without losing their sense of faith. At a glance, this movie doesn’t look too bad but then again it’s still Pure Flix and I have a hard time believing that they can actually make a good movie, but I guess we’ll see.

Here’s the cast. Starring we have Richard T. Jones (CHIPS [2017], GODZILLA [2014], and TV show TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES [2008 – 2009]), T.C. Stallings (WAR ROOM [2015]) and Renee O’Connor (BITCH SLAP [2009] and TV show XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS [1995 – 2001]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Kevan Otto, known for a few other religious films. Penning the screenplay is Ty Manns, also known for other religious films. Composing the score is… actually, I have no idea. IMDb doesn’t have one credited, but Wikipedia says it’s Nelson Jackson and Jason Solowsky for additional music. Is there really no official composer for this film? I guess I’ll just stick with these two then, but I’m not familiar with their work. Finally, the cinematographer is Chase Bowman, known for stuff I’ve never heard of.

Overall, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this… in fact, I’m really not, but it’s a theater release and I’ve got a “job” to do.

This is my honest opinion of: A QUESTION OF FAITH

(SUMMARY)

The story follows three sets of religious families that experience tragedy: one family losing their son to a teen driver texting and driving, the teen driver and her mother, and another family whose daughter is in need of a heart transplant and the connection they all share.

(REVIEW)

Well… out of the four faith-based films that I’ve seen this year, this is the second best. But really… that’s saying next to nothing. While it’s not exactly a hateful film, like a majority of Pure Flix movies can be, it’s still not good.

Without seeing the trailer, you know exactly what subject this movie is going to tackle before the movie gets more than five minutes in. You have a Kate (Jaci Velasquez) catching her teenage daughter Maria (Karen Valero) texting while parking the car and immediately goes into the whole, “You could hurt yourself, or someone else” spiel, and Maria just says, “I was just parking the car.” First of all, this was a buffet of cliché right there and then. The overbearing mom and the dismissive teenager, it feels more like one of those old VHS videos you showed kids in middle school rather than a movie that would be shown in theaters in 2017. And second, this movie is as subtle as a violent clawing of the face. Guess what happens after this exchange of dialog? Maria hits a little boy as she’s texting, therefore kicking off the point of the movie. The writer has apparently never heard of subtlety.

And I might as well just tackle the issues I have with each story one by one. So while I’m talking about Maria, I think it would have been better to not give her a character. Why? She doesn’t feel that essential to the story, even though the movie treats her like she’s supposed to be. Most of the film focuses on the drama with David (Richard T. Jones) and Theresa (Kim Fields), which is arguably where the focus should be. It also bounces to the perspectives of John (C. Thomas Howell), Mary (Renee O’Connor), and Michelle (Amber Thompson), but rarely gives any real focus to Kate and Maria. It practically serves as a reminder that their appearance in the film will have a payoff, rather than giving us someone to understand and possibly empathize with. Also, the only thing they really do with Maria is make her that hysterical person who doesn’t want to go to juvy for her actions, giving us the impression that she doesn’t understand her actions and wants to get off scott-free. Wouldn’t it make more sense, or be more powerful, if she did understand and accepted her fate? At the very least, you could respect the character who laments her choices, rather than make her out to be whiny and trying to brush them off.

And there’s some weird shots involving Kate. When the police come to her, telling her that her daughter ran Eric over, I swear, her reaction looked like a rehearsal take. It was an acting graveyard in that moment. There’s another scene where she comes in to her diner, sits at a table, and starts praying for her daughter as a montage goes by. There’s a lot of those, by the way. But at the end of the montage, there’s really weird moment when you just see her co-workers holding her shoulder and quietly joining her. There is no build up to this shot. Hell, when Kate sits down, the shot makes it look like her co-workers aren’t even aware that she’s praying. The very next shot that we see her, they’re just there and I’m sitting in my seat going, “Where the hell did you all come from?!”

Now for the victimized Newman family, David, Theresa, and Junior (James Hooper). About the best part of the movie is Jones. He’s typically a great actor for as unknown as he criminally is, and you can tell that he’s trying to make his role work, and for the most part, you feel for the character. It makes sense to have his faith in question. Him, I surprisingly have zero problems with… other than we did that cliché about a father who’s too busy to spend time with his family, taking pages out of HAUNTED MANSION (2004), JINGLE ALL THE WAY (1996), and so many others. But if that was the worst trope I had to deal with, this movie would have been okay. Who I did have a problem with was Theresa. Holy mother of God, this woman has a serious chemical imbalance. When Eric’s in the hospital, Theresa brings in a lawyer who’s got the papers to donate their son’s organs WITHOUT CONSULTING THE FATHER!!! Wow…. and even when the tragedy was finished, David is grieving and depressed like any father would be, but Theresa is bizarrely okay with everything. I don’t care how deeply religious you are, you’d be crushed to bury your child and wouldn’t be this okay with his death. Especially if it was over something this tragic and for a kid of twelve-years. You never see any struggle in her to cope with what happened. Even Junior acts out, if you can even call it that. Leaving the house without letting his parents know… even though they admit he left a note… how does that not count?

Now for the Danielson clan. Once again, the closest to a kind thing that I can say about this family is Michelle. Why? Because she has some seriously subtle depth to her. She’s got this abnormal heartbeat that leads to her getting Eric’s. Besides the physical adjustments from her body getting used to her new heart, there is this serious guilt that she clearly feels a variation of survivors guilt. Michelle has brief, but surprisingly quiet scenes of her feeling depressed. I would have had some mad respect for this movie if there was more of a focus on her depression. Sadly, the Danielson’s have very little screen time. And when they do have screen time, it’s focused mostly on John, who is a grade-A jerk. This man is as unlikable as they come. Prior to his daughter’s illness, I’m pretty sure that due to his financial debt, he talks to his bookie, or banker, or whoever it was that once his daughter is signed for a record deal, she’ll give him the money he needs to pay it all off. As I’m not entirely sure if that’s accurate, I’ll not comment further on that. However, I will comment that he is a prick of, pun totally intended here, Biblical proportions. When his daughter’s surgery is done, he’s horribly unhappy and for no good reason. His dying daughter was saved. She’s alive and once again has her whole life ahead of her. But he hangs on to his hatred and, seriously, it’s never explained what he’s so angry about. His financial situation? It’s barely touched upon, let alone explored, so all we ever see it a jerk to the umpteenth degree.

And what did this movie do to O’Connor?! Gabriella from XENA! One of the most charismatic and likable characters and she’s just awful in this. She barely emotes any of her lines and she never really looks invested in anything that’s happening, even during the more dramatic scenes. And Mary is one of those characters that chocks everything up to “the Lord’s will.” Look, I get it, religion is all about the grand plan and everything happens for a reason, but when she credits God for saving her daughter’s life, as opposed to the surgeons, and the unquantifiably generous family of the little boy, who for all intents and purposes wasn’t fully dead, who gave his heart away to her, essentially killing their own child so theirs could live, then there is a gargantuan level of inconsideration that makes me have no respect for someone, well-meaning or not.

Now let’s talk about the technical aspects, something I never thought I would have any merit in doing.

Michelle’s singing is poorly dubbed. I can’t claim to know if Thompson can actually sing or not, but clearly the scenes where she is singing, I can clearly tell it’s not her singing live. And here’s some contrivances for ya. When she’s up there, she sings an entire song, and the moment she finishes, the very moment she finishes, as if on cue, she faints. So on top of poor dubbing or syncing, we have poor direction.

In fact, there’s a lot of technical aspects that I ended up spotting, which is something I shouldn’t be able to do. The editing in this movie is atrocious. The ending of one scene could be so dramatic and heavy, and immediately cut to a different scene featuring happy peppy people. It doesn’t flow in the slightest. I’ve seen better edited high school videos. Hell, I’ve been in better edited high school movies than this. And this happens more than a couple times in the movie too.

This movie is bad. Really bad. It’s so incompetently made and some scenes hurt to watch. But… I give it credit where it counts. It’s not crying out a persecution complex. It’s not singling out bad guy atheists and making them monsters. It’s also not really hammering in how much everyone needs to pray, at least, not that I’ve noticed. It does attempt to promote awareness, so the movie does have noble intentions. And it does try to show good Christian people being good Christians. But sadly, it’s still poorly written, poorly acted, poorly edited, a little too pandery, the majority of the acting is unbearable, and makes way too many assumptions about itself and what effect it’s going to have on the world. If you’re religious, then you’ll likely be fine. But if you’re like me and the mere mention of “Pure Flix” is enough to give you a shiver, then this is a hard pass.

My honest rating for A QUESTION OF FAITH: a weak 3/5

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