Pass the Light
Christian Movie Review
Here’s the plot (from IMDB): “‘Pass the Light’ tells the story of Steve Bellafiore, a 17-year-old high school senior who decides to run for Congress in order to protect the faith that he so loves.”
It’s unique in the faith-based field, however, because, instead of putting an obvious evangelistic spin on it that has the non-Christian in mind, this film seems more of an open letter to the Body of Christ.
This film could also be controversial because it’s one of the first Christian-themed movies that deals with the hot-button topic of homosexuality. I will get more into what the film does with that topic in the “Worldviews” section.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: No sex scenes or nudity. The film includes two homosexual characters. One character mentions “sodomites.” A husband and wife kiss. The teenage character, Steve, admits that, yes, there are moral problems in America, there is sexual immorality — though he says he’s not sure that it is his place to condemn or condone homosexuality or even if he has the wisdom to do it if he tried. The film doesn’t go much further than that with the whole debate (at least from the perspective of theology) other than making the point that Christians should show love to homosexuals and be open to seeing the good qualities in every individual whether or not they are homosexual.
Violence/Gore: Football “violence” when a player takes a hard hit.
Language: The word “tramp” is written on a girl’s locker.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: None.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
They shot this film in 17 days.
Yet the film does not feel hastily put together. It’s high quality — especially the acting (which always speaks highly of both the actors and the director who helped them find the right performance). For example, I was very impressed with the leads. Cameron Palatas is a young Andrew Garfield (which is a good thing in my book; I really liked “The Amazing Spider-Man”), Dalpre Grayer has the perfect relaxed charm for his character, and Alexandria DeBerry shines (which is not surprising, she always does a great job on A.N.T. Farm, a show that my daughter watches).
And, of course, there’s Jon Gries, who became a cult classic and an iconic actor with his stand-out performance as the hilarious Uncle Rico (whom I am STILL quoting to this day) in “Napoleon Dynamite.” Although he plays a serious, contentious, not-so-nice character in the film, Gries does it perfectly: he doesn’t over-act. He shows restraint, which somehow makes his character more formidable and intimidating as the young Steve challenges him in the political arena.
Worldview and Themes of Redemption
Franklin, a Christian who is running for office, is presenting an extreme platform that advocates exiling sexually immoral people, including homosexuals, from the community. He communicates his message with an extremely aggressive tone that does not allow any dissent or meaningful debate.
Steve, also a Christian (and a high school student), runs against Franklin with a much different message: instead of exiling people based on moral issues, we should love and serve them first, and then in the context of relationships based on mutual trust, humility, and sincere listening, we can discuss those more sensitive topics without pushing each other away.
At least that’s my interpretation of the film.
The film includes homosexual characters. You might be thinking, “So is this movie a pro-gay marriage political piece? Is it trying to score points for the liberal view point?”
I can’t speak for the political leanings of the filmmakers involved, but I don’t believe it’s out to score points for the Left’s political narrative. I don’t think it’s out to score points for the Right either. I don’t think it’s trying to score any clear points in that political sense.
In my opinion, the film is simply trying to show that Christians are more effective in advancing the Gospel when they: 1) focus on the salvation message of the Gospel in their rhetoric instead of framing everything around the moral condition of non-believers; and 2) live the love of Christ — i.e. put it in action by serving their communities and giving to others selflessly.
When I spoke with the writer of the film, Victor Hawks, I asked him how a Christian can respectfully stand up for what he or she believes while also “passing the light.” For example: can a conservative Christian disagree with a talking point from the political Left or from LGBT activists while maintaining the love of Christ portrayed in the movie?
We talked at length about this in my interview with him (and you’ll have to wait for that article coming later this week to get the full dialogue), but during that conversation he made it clear that he’s not slamming down a gavel of condemnation against the church. In fact, he believes that the majority of Christians in America are not hyper-negative like the character Franklin.
But he does feel, and this shows in the movie, that sometimes Christians can go into full-on Beast Mode, charging ahead like Marshawn Lynch to plow people over on the football field, instead of reaching out with the love of Christ.
This film brings other messages to the table too:
1. Young people should never discount themselves from being leaders in their communities.
2. Acts of love, even the smallest gestures of kindness, can have a domino effect on the communities around us that build like a wave into powerful, meaningful transformations on a very large scale.
Although this movie does use the challenging cultural debate over homosexuality as a plot point, ultimately the film isn’t really about that specific hot-button issue. It’s not attempting to present a fully developed theological/intellectual/political argument for or against the traditional Christian beliefs about gender and God’s design for sexuality. It doesn’t even begin to breach all of the different debates and sub-topics there.
This film is, ultimately, about something else: it’s about bringing the love of Christ to others first before we do (or say) anything else.
That being said, some Christians might feel that the film’s use of the Franklin character — in whom we see an extremely negative, villainous rhetorical tone adjoined to a general belief that homosexuality is a sin — is subtly demonizing any Christian (even if their tone is respectful and kind) who holds traditional views about sexuality and marriage.
However, after speaking with the screenwriter, I’m convinced that he was not trying to specifically demonize Christians who hold those views. He was just trying to make a point: the Gospel shines brighter when we go out and serve others with acts of kindness and selflessness.
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