Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hr 40 min.
Our content rating (1-10): Violence 2; Language 3; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating: 4.5
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Ellen Burstyn is wonderful as the elderly Mattie Rigsbee, a widow admittedly slowing down yet still capable of caring for herself and others. Based on the novel by Clyde Edgerton, the story presents a sympathetic view of a small town widow and the Christian faith that sustains and motivates her. This is a film to place alongside Tender Mercies, Places in the Heart, The Apostle, and Trip to Bountiful, a small but vibrant genre that every Christian should know about and use.
Mattie lives in a small Southern town where she is prominent in the leadership of her church. Her grown son and daughter live fairly close by, but have strayed from her church-centered ways. Both are concerned that she is too old to be living by herself. Had they known of the funny but potentially serious predicament she is about to find herself at the beginning of the film, they would be downright alarmed. Mattie, after feeding a stray dog, finds herself falling through the seat of a rocking chair and being unable to extricate herself from it. How she is rescued and what chain of events this initiates adds up to viewing that is both enjoyable and inspiring.
The film is suitable for intergenerational viewing and discussion, as well as for the usual youth and adult groups. Children will laugh at Mattie’s being stuck in her chair; adults will relate to Jonathon Taylor Thomas’s Wesley; and adults will feel empathy for Mattie and the difficult decisions with which she is faced. There is a moment of suspense when violence threatens to break out, but this does not materialize. The film offers an especially fine opportunity for adult groups to discuss relationships between elderly parents and grown children and to explore Jesus’ teaching in his parable of the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. The scene in which this passage is read n church is a wonderful example of what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says is the power of God’s written word. Be sure to note the portion which is used and its effect on Mattie!
The fate of this independently produced film is one more glaring example of the unfairness of the film distribution system, in that it was never given a chance at the cinema chains across the country. At the same time, it is one more reason to be thankful for home video.