The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby's musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Pat Padua's review of "God Bless the Broken Road," click here.
The question isn’t if “God Bless the Broken Road” is good (it is not). The question is, who is this movie FOR?
The film follows Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher), a devout churchgoer whose husband is killed in Afghanistan. We rejoin Amber and her young daughter (Makenzie Moss) two years later; Amber no longer goes to church and is angry at God for either not existing or letting her husband die (it’s unclear). There’s also a race car driver (Andrew W. Walker) in the story, for no other reason than to learn the lesson that Lightning McQueen got in “Cars.”
“Broken Road” is a Christian movie, that fairly modern genre with themes explicitly tied to contemporary American Christianity — the Christian rock of the silver screen. Considering that the great commission of Christianity is to “go and make disciples of all nations,” it would be reasonable to assume that Christian movies are out to reach and convert nonbelievers. That doesn’t seem to be the goal of “Broken Road” — and even if it were, it wouldn’t work.
Many people, like Amber, suffer a loss of faith after a tragedy. But that’s not the reason most non-Christians are non-Christians. Amber finds her way back (sorry, spoiler) through the prayers of friends and a lot of platitudes about God that are better suited to bumper stickers than articles of faith. Many nonbelievers — and most of the people leaving mainstream American Christianity in droves — have complicated reasons and complex questions that have no easy answers. “Broken Road” doesn’t acknowledge that experience in the least.
Modern Christian films too often encourage complacency — and nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say anything like, “Sit back, relax, you’re doing everything right.” Christianity is a wrestling match of a faith, full of teachings like “Sell all your stuff and give the money to the poor” and “If someone punches you in the face, let them do it again” and “Yes, I know there are very clear rules, but sometimes those rules don’t count, so you actually don’t get to stone this woman caught in adultery and by the way where is the guy caught in adultery with her?” (OK, I added that last part, but you have to admit Jesus was totally thinking that.) Jesus challenged the rules and encouraged the questions, which is exactly the opposite of what “Broken Road” does.
Christian art used to encompass the Sistine Chapel and Mozart’s “Requiem” and “Amazing Grace” and C.S. Lewis — works that engaged and wrestled with not only Christian beliefs and traditions, but the world at large. “Broken Road” isn’t part of that legacy: It reduces doubters and nonbelievers to straw men and reduces Christianity to easy-to-digest pablum. The real problem with “Broken Road” isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that it goes nowhere.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby