I always approach films written primarily for Christian audiences with some trepidation. Many have been subpar in production values. One of the best to date has been Fireproof. Now the same director, David Nixon, this time with professional actors, has upped the ante.
Letters to God, written by a father who lost a son to cancer, uses his experience as the basis for a movie about a young boy dealing with the disease. His response is to write letters to God and send them via the postal service. They are, in effect, his prayers.
The postal worker who crosses paths with the boy is a beaten-down, nearly destroyed individual who has gone through a divorce and lost custody of his own son. He stumbles upon God’s call on his life through his interaction with the boy.
Prescription for a maudlin tearjerker? Possibly, if handled wrongly. But the performances in this case are strong. Both the young boy and the mailman are believable. They are real people, not caricatures.
Those aren’t the only strong performances. The actress portraying the widowed mother clearly shows the stress of having to deal with a series of body blows to her life. If someone wants to criticize by saying the film is too optimistic, that it doesn’t show “real life,” I respond by asking, “Just which movies do you think accurately portray real life? The films that picture everyone as grungy and unlikeable?”
An extra treat is Ralph Waite (the father from the old Waltons TV series) as the actor/grandpa of one of the children.
Are there weaknesses? Yes. A couple of the actors aren’t as polished as I would like. Also, the presentation of the gospel at one point becomes a little formulaic. Yet these are minor concerns. The story is engrossing, even gripping, as you come to identify with each character. Will I admit to having to wipe away some unwelcome liquid from my eyes? Yes again. Maybe I’m just an easy target for those who want to tug on the heart, but I don’t apologize for that.
If you go see the movie, stay for the true stories of cancer survivors whose faith saw them through. They come just before the credits, and are worth a little extra time in the theater—don’t rush out.
I give two thumbs up for Letters to God.