I don’t want to beat around the bush, so I’m just going to attach a disclaimer from both the CGB Facebook page and my personal profile:
My next review requires a disclaimer.
I will be posting my review of a Christian film called “Right to Believe.” It tells the story of a Christian journalist interviewing a gay man who is organizing an LBGT pride parade in their home town.
I will try to be as charitable to both Christian readers and LGBT readers as possible, but my motto is, “If I was interested in making friends, I wouldn’t blog.” Keep in mind that I am critiquing it as a film and nothing more.
The review will be up soon.
This is my review of Right to Believe!
After journalist Tony Morris is demoted when his high-profile article is discredited, he is assigned to cover a “community fluff piece,” which happens to be a gay pride parade. Though reluctant, Tony takes the assignment and meets LGBT parade organizer Markus Fry. The first interview goes smoothly, though it is interrupted when Markus gets a distressing phone call. However things get complicated when, during the second interview, Markus calls out Tony when he sees how uncomfortable Tony acts around him [Markus]. From there, the next series of interviews are a rigorous discussion/debate between Tony and Markus on the topic of homosexuality and the Bible.
In my new movie review notebook (my old one was starting to fall apart), the first thing I wrote down was, “how does this Christian film handle homosexuality?” I am pleased to say that Right to Believe treats the topic with the best care that it can. Markus Fry is not a gay stereotype; in fact when we first meet him, you don’t know what his sexual orientation is. An approachable, mild-mannered man who happens to be gay, Markus is written as a character and not an agenda prop. I could see myself meeting someone like him at Starbucks or a concert. His homosexuality is an aspect of who he is, not the entirety of who he is. The movie makes sure that there is more to him than his sexual preference.
The first half of the film is the strongest. Tony’s situation is believable; after being demoted, he must take the fluff piece in order to keep his job and lay low. Also Tony’s pride is the reason behind his hesitance to take the assignment. This is a guy who does infamous murder trials and political scandals, so to be given a task that is mostly for newbie reporters is, in his eyes, beneath him. His Christian faith adds to his resigned demeanor when approaching the assignment. Also I would like to point out that the Christian character [Tony] is shown as being less virtuous than the non-believing character [Markus], which is shockingly rare in a lot of Christian films. In fact, there are times where the script allows Markus to look more logical than Tony. Overall Tony and Markus are presented in an honest and humanistic way, which is something to be appreciated.
Every story has a formula, and how this type of story usually goes is that the two characters from opposing sides would start out forming a friendship or some form of acquaintanceship before tackling the controversial issues surrounding their identities. Here, it’s an interviewer-interviewee relationship that jumps right into debate partner mode. Their debate on the Bible and homosexuality is too rushed and could have use a smoother transition.
The actual debate plays out like a heated discussion you would see between two people talking at a café. A LOT of the dialogue gets preachy and this criticism goes to both Tony and Markus. Some of what Tony says about the Bible frustrated me, and Markus became unrealistically nasty from time to time. Also I would have liked to have seen Tony meeting a friend or boyfriend of Markus, or even having Tony’s wife bump into Markus without Tony present; humanize the opposing characters to each other, show the complexities of their positions by having Tony see Markus happy with a boyfriend or vice versa. Granted, that doesn’t mean that either man should recant his beliefs, but Christian filmmakers should keep in mind that adult issues are always complicated.
What really bothered me as a Catholic Christian is the “only belief in Jesus will get you to Heaven; good works have no say” rhetoric that Tony preaches. I’m sorry, but I can’t let this go. If you believe in Jesus, but your actions contradict His teachings, then that’s hypocrisy. Saint Paul the Apostle says, “faith without work is dead.”
The final verdict is that Right to Believe handles homosexuality the best way it can. It’s a noble attempt where even though the agenda gets in the way at times, the filmmakers never forgot to tell a story about two human beings.
Update: I have been corrected. It wasn’t Paul the Apostle who said, “Faith without works is dead.” Actually here is the real passage:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. “