By Peter Sheehan
This American film develops an intriguing plot line about a crisis-ridden journalist who returns home after covering the war in Afghanistan, and then conducts a series of interviews with someone who claims he is God.
The journalist, named Paul Asher (played by Brenton Thwaites), works for a New York City tabloid and whose life is crumbling.
His traumatic experiences in the Afghanistan war and his failing marriage are challenging his faith.
In the midst of his anguish he interviews a person, identified in the movie simply as “The Man”, played by David Strathairn, and it is an opportunity he finds impossible to resist.
He is granted three 30-minute long separate interviews on three consecutive days.
Paul at one time believed in God, but now queries everything he was taught about religion after living through the horror of the war.
As his life starts disintegrating, he thinks an interview with the Almighty might help, and for a budding journalist, it could be an interview of a lifetime.
The film provocatively explores Christian themes of significance, which doesn’t focus on the identity of “The Man”, but more about finding faith and exploring human relationships.
Paul struggles with how he should interview someone claiming to be God – he doesn’t know how to select the questions he should ask, and “The Man” searches for ways to demonstrate his empathy with Paul’s obvious struggles.
The director of the movie, Perry Lang, creates genuine intrigue in our wondering what Paul will ask God, and how God will answer him, and Thwaites and Strathairn work very well together to maintain the tension.
The first of the three conversations signals Paul’s lack of faith in God, with two subsequent conversations shift much more to a focus on God interviewing Paul.
Deep theological questions about the need for salvation, and free will are raised.
They don’t get answered, but the exchanges between Paul and “The Man” increase in tension as the interviews progress.
Paul comes to see the potential consequences of his crisis of faith which has been tested on the battlefield in war and in his marriage.
Providing answers are not the film’s concern.
As “The Man” fades out of view in a shaft of light, Paul is left with a message that gives him hope: truth will be revealed to those who participate actively in life’s struggles to find faith, which as the film says is a process that “takes time and dedication every day”.
The film is best seen as a conversation stimulus for dialogue with those who have the Christian faith, or are looking to find it.
It projects the message that God listens empathically to all those he cares for, and persons wanting answers should try to explore what different solutions might mean for them.
The film does not try to anchor itself to scriptural interpretations, nor is it theologically very sophisticated.
It works by establishing intriguing scenarios that are resolved positively, and it communicates the significance of love, hope, and self-help in a comforting and reassuring way.
Providing one accepts the film’s fantasy premise – which turns out not to be a particularly hard ask – the movie provides a fascinating excursion into religious belief.
The Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting rating for this movie is PG – mild themes and coarse language.