By Daniele Foti-Cuzzola
Back in 2007, William P Young finally released his debut faith-based novel, The Shack after being rejected by countless publishers who had little faith in his vision.
Fast forward to 2017 and The Shack has since topped The New York Times Best Seller List and become a worldwide phenomenon selling more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Now the much-beloved story of a grieving father who has a chance encounter with the Holy Trinity is making its highly anticipated transition from page to screen.
However, like many other book to screen adaptations, The Shack fails to capture the sincerity and authenticity that made the book such a phenomenon.
The film poignantly explores grief and forgiveness as Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips (Sam Worthington), a loving family man who has an unshakable faith in God has his world turn upside down when his youngest daughter Missy (Amelie Eve) is abducted and murdered.
Withdrawing from his family and his faith, Mackenzie’s life reaches a crossroads until he returns to the shack where Missy was killed and encounters God (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Sumire), who over the course of a weekend, help him come to terms with his loss.
While fans of the book will appreciate Director Stuart Hazeldine’s loyalty to the film’s source material, those who are not familiar with the book will struggle with the film’s excessive 132-minute running time. While the first half is engaging, the second half is severely overstuffed and slow-paced. The film would have been much more effective had its running time been cut down considerably.
While the film attempts to explore the raw emotions of loss and grief and the difficulty to forgive, the screenplay by John Fusco, Andrew Lanham and Destin Cretto leaves plenty to be desired.
The beautifully written passages that made Young’s novel such a phenomenon and resonated with audiences worldwide have been weighed down by the constant clichés and similes scattered throughout the screenplay.
Despite its shortcomings, The Shack has plenty to celebrate. The outstanding performances by the all-star cast carry the film and bring a sense of realism to a faith-based story that at times comes across as a whimsical, underdeveloped fairy tale.
Western Australia’s own Sam Worthington delivers a truly moving performance as Mack, a broken family man who is struggling to come to terms with his incomprehensible loss and Melbourne-born actress Radha Mitchell, also tugs at the heartstrings in her poignant portrayal as Nana, Mack’s devout wife and Missy’s grieving mother.
Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) radiates plenty of warmth and some much-needed light-heartedness as ‘Papa’ God, a role she shares with Graham Greene, and newcomer Amelie Eve shows plenty of promise as Missy. Rounding out the cast is country singer Tim McGraw who also performs the film’s anthem ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’, and Sumire and Aviv Alush who play The Holy Spirit and Jesus respectively.
The Shack also boasts some stellar production values including stunning cinematography and some visually beautiful sequences including a scene where Mack encounters the spirit of his deceased loved ones including his estranged father, and a scene where he runs across the water with Jesus.
With an all-star cast, solid performances, stunning visuals and a poignant story, The Shack has the foundations of a solid faith-based film and will no doubt resonate with fans of the book, but its excessive running time and the cliché-ridden script will prevent it from winning over any new fans.
The Shack is in Cinemas now. Thanks to Anarchy PR we are giving away double in-season passes to see The Shack. For your chance to win email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us in 25 words or less what is the most inspiring film you have ever seen?