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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All Saints is a faith-based drama inspired by a true story of an Episcopalian priest (John Corbett) who saves a struggling congregation with the help of a group of refugees from Myanmar. There's little iffy content in the movie, except for one scene in which a police officer strikes a pastor who's trying to keep a misunderstanding from getting out of control. And there are a couple of conversations in which refugees briefly describe the harrowing conditions they endured (torture, rape, murder, isolation). Language is tame and limited to "sucks," and insults like "shut your pie hole." Viewers of faith will appreciate the movie's messages about trusting in God, helping brothers and sisters in Christ, and so forth, and all audiences will spark to the story's themes of teamwork, friendship, and generosity.
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What's the story?
ALL SAINTS is based on the true story of how a new Episcopalian priest and a group of refugees from Myanmar helped save a struggling country church in rural Tennessee. Salesman-turned-Episcopalian priest Michael Spurlock (John Corbett) is assigned his first lead priesthood at All Saints Episcopal in Smyrna, Tennessee -- a small country congregation that the diocese plans to shut down and sell, since there are only a dozen regular parishioners (and not enough offerings to support the expensive mortgage). As Spurlock; his wife, Aimee (Cara Buono); and preteen son, Atticus (Myles Moore) struggle with the news that they're shepherding a church that's destined to close, the congregation gets an unexpected influx of members in the form of a tight-knit group of Anglican Karen refugees from Myanmar (Burma) -- most of whom were farmers back in their homeland. Michael and Ye Win (Nelson Lee), the leader of the Karen community, join forces to try to save All Saints (and help feed the Karen families) by turning the land the church owns into a working farm. But the Episcopal council gives the church only one season to prove that their experiment is profitable.
Is it any good?
This faith-based drama might seem like another example of a "white savior" narrative, but it ultimately shows how the refugees, not just the pastor, save the day through dedication and hard work. Although All Saints changed a few of the original story's details (Spurlock was in publishing before becoming a priest, not a salesman; the couple had a younger daughter; etc.), the main events seem true to life. And director Steve Gomer (a veteran TV director) even uses the real Karen churchgoers to play their on-screen counterparts (with the exception of Lee, who is a famous Taiwanese actor-director-producer). This is definitely a sentimental, feel-good movie that could easily be a Lifetime/Hallmark presentation, except it's a bit short on romance for those networks. As in most religious films, there's an overriding message about the power of faith, prayer, and God.
Northern Exposure fans will be thrilled to see Corbett reunite with Barry Corbin, who (once again) plays a curmudgeon with a secret heart of gold: Forrest, one of the church's few remaining congregants. Forrest is critical of Rev. Michael's plan and believes it will be too hard on the Karen families. As on their old show, Corbett and Corbin's characters butt heads, but they eventually grow fond of each other. Forrest bonds with Ye Win over their shared memories of wars they've faced, and in some ways their friendship comes off as more believably close than Rev. Michael's with either man. Considering the current political/social climate regarding issues related to refugees from non-Western backgrounds, it's inspiring to see a true story about the power of intercultural friendship and teamwork.
Talk to your kids about ...
How do the movie's messages about refugees relate to the United States' frequently contentious political/social debate about immigrants and refugees?
Although it doesn't have a lot of iffy content, do you think this movie is appropriate for younger kids? What might elementary school or middle school audiences learn from the movie?
How accurate do you think All Saints is? Why might filmmakers choose to change some details in a movie that's based on a true story?
Talk about the appeal of faith-based films. Do you think only families/viewers who embrace these movies' faith-based messages will appreciate them? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 25, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 12, 2017
- Cast: John Corbett, David Keith, Barry Corbin
- Director: Steve Gomer
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements
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