Friday, September 15, 2017

“Generational Sins” (PG-13)

My film-making friend Spencer Folmar* has a brand new feature-length movie coming out in just 3 weeks. It’s called Generational Sins, and I was privileged to attend a special advanced screening.

Generational Sins is Spencer’s best and most artful production so far. I can’t begin to imagine what kind of work goes into directing a major movie project like this–shepherding all of the complex details from the idea stage all the way to the big screen.

The two principal actors clearly know what they are doing. Daniel MacPherson, who plays the central character of Drew Caldwell, is an Australian actor who will soon be appearing in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. He shows a great range in this film from outright rage to peaceful joy. His co-star, Dax Spanogle, who co-wrote the screenplay with Spencer, portrays Drew’s brother Will Caldwell and reminds me of a young Chris O'Donnell, with pluck and charm (and maybe some hidden depth). A minor character is played by the man famous for being Goofy (yes, that Goofy!).

Many of the other actors are familiar faces to me because they are actually neighbors and friends from around here in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania where most of the story takes place. It’s fun to see all of them (including a sweet little girl from our church family) and lots of our local landmarks, especially some great aerial shots! Spencer himself even pulls a Hitchcock and shows up in his own movie as a waiter at a local eatery.

An Explicit Gospel Message

As you might guess from the title, this movie deals heavily with spiritual and theological themes. Spencer is a Christian and has a deep desire to portray the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his films. In one key scene in Generational Sins, a compassionate pastor explains the good news explicitly, referencing the death and resurrection of Jesus and the power of forgiveness to change a person’s life. And there is a general (yet realistically zig-zaggy) movement in the story arc from darkness to light.

Spencer’s theology is orthodox. Unlike some other big-budget faith-based movies, there is no heretical false teaching to be worried about in Generational Sins.

Not for Everyone

That doesn’t mean, however, that Generational Sins is a movie for every person to watch.

Spencer is trying to create something different than most other Christian films out there these days. He calls his new genre “hard faith” movies, films that go to greater lengths to fully depict the brokenness of our fallen world. You can look at the line-up of movies that Spencer intends to make and see the kinds of heavy subjects he wants to interact with through his art.

Generational Sins is rated PG-13 and for good reason. It is intense, dark, and gritty. The main characters are unhappy, unlikable, and angry with each other and God for most of the movie. The story revolves around jagged realities like child abuse, rage, lust, addiction, fear, and suicide. And there is a good bit of crass and coarse language from beginning to end (even from the saintly mother character!). If your conscience won’t allow you to watch other movies like that, you’ll want to give this one a pass, too.

This week, a group of Christian women asked me if I thought they ought to attend the world premiere of Generational Sins. They had gone to other movies in the “faith-based” genre like God’s Not Dead, The Case for Christ, and War Room. I told them what I’ve written here–that Generational Sins is like those movies in being explicitly Christian, but it’s also significantly unlike those movies in both content and style. Ultimately, they decided to split into two groups that night: one that went to the movie prepared for what they’re going to see and another that is going out together for dessert and fellowship. I thought that was very wise.

Generational Sins will open in US theaters the weekend of October 5-8.

*Spencer was the genius behind the camera and the computer for the Resisting Gossip Trailer and Video Teaching Series.