MOVIE REVIEW: Confessions of a Prodigal Son
I must confess; although I am a practicing Catholic and my son currently attends a Catholic school, watching faith-based movies isn’t really a hobby of mine. I chalk it up to having a Catholic school education myself–those films we watched in religion class were usually real snoozers, so corny us students made fun of them behind the teachers’ backs.
When I got the chance to review Confessions of a Prodigal Son, however, I thought I’d give it a shot. The parable contained within the title is one of the most famous bible stories–even non-Christians probably have heard it. I also appreciated that such a young guy wrote the screenplay and starred in the movie. Most importantly, I had read that for Lent, not only should you give something up, you should add something of God to your Lenten preparations…so I delved back into the world of Christian film.
The prodigal son in question is Sean Matthews, pastor’s son and college sophomore. After high school he left home on quite bad terms with his parents, taking his college fund along with him. Two years later, he is wallowing in a cycle of drinking, spending his money recklessly, partying, and going to class perpetually hungover.
Something’s gotta give, and it seems Sean doesn’t even know how stuck he is in his life until he meets Ali, a pretty waitress and dancer who teaches children at a studio. When Sean learns that not only does Ali have actual goals for her life, but that she intends to fulfill them with the help of God, he is wary–as a pastor’s son, he has heard enough of God for several lifetimes. Due to some bad decisions, Sean struggles and must determine what things he really needs in his life to succeed.
First, let me say that you should know this is a first film for the screenwriter, Nathan Clarkson. His acting is OK, but his writing is better. My favorite moments are between Sean and his friend Cameron, because they add some necessary moments of humor and levity. The banter is also realistic between Sean and Ali, even making the conversation naturally turn towards matters of religion–and if you’ve seen any Christian films, you know this is not always so easily done.
One issue I had with the story overall was that I wished it would have been more clearly explained exactly what happened between Sean and his parents. The viewer is just told that Sean was tired of their expectations for him and was ready to forge his own path in life. This is kind of a generic answer, but the son taking the money and going off on his own is in direct correlation back to the original Prodigal Son Parable.
Overall, I would say that the best thing about this film is that it doesn’t beat you over the head with the mentions of God and his love for us, like a lot of more heavy handed Christian films can do. The viewer is left with a feeling of love, yes, but also forgiveness and choice. I especially loved this because it gave me a lot to reflect upon during Lent.
With a minimal cast and a simple storyline, I think viewers of high school age and above will appreciate this movie most. A lot of teenagers may relate to how Sean feels when it comes to wanting to escape his parents’ expectations, and I think this film is important in portraying that anything can be forgiven, even when you are at your lowest point.
The DVD will be released on March 24, 2015 and is available from several vendors both in store and online.