Beyond the Farthest Star

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Farthest Star Movie Poster Image
Faith-based family redemption story with mature themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 119 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

 Promotes honesty, facing up to one's misdeeds, forgiveness, and faith in God. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Imperfect characters struggle for redemption and to find their individual place in the world. Parents are caring and reliable but have difficulty dealing with a challenging child; some progress is made.

Violence

A fistfight. A father is brutal toward his son. A gun provides a threat. Off-camera shooting results in a death. Central character is a cutter, with scars visible; in one scene she self-mutilates by burning her arm. Mention of rape.

Sex

A teen sexual relationship in the past is a primary story element. Some kissing.

Language

"Damn," "ass," "hell."  Some insults (e.g., "freak," "punk ass"). 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking and drunkenness. One drunk character is abusive. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beyond the Farthest Star is a dark faith-based drama about a family that's struggling with some profound issues, working through them, and beginning the arduous task of moving forward. After a series of professional missteps, a pastor, famous as a child for his amazing evangelical prowess, now finds himself and his family relegated to a church in a small Texas town. There, family discord edges toward the breaking point. Alcoholism, dishonesty, mental illness, betrayal, child abuse, even First Amendment issues are all touched upon in this movie. Religious beliefs and faith play an important part in the film's resolution(s). Expect some violent scenes: gunplay, arson, a fierce fight, as well as a teen girl who's troubled and self-mutilates as a release from intense unhappiness. There's some drinking and drunkenness, and one minor character is a mean alcoholic. Characters smoke. A smattering of mild curse words ("damn," "hell," "ass") and insults ("freak," "punk ass") are heard. 

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What's the story?

The Wells family is teetering on the brink of disaster in BEYOND THE FARTHEST STAR. Pastor Adam (Todd Terry), his wife Maurene (Renee O'Connor), and their teen daughter Anne (Cherami Leigh) have arrived in Leonard, a small Texas town, after several unsuccessful church assignments. Adam's tenure in the new church is immediately threatened when John Cutter (Andrew Prine), the husband of one of his congregants, rages about his wife's newly kindled faith and sets fire to the creche displayed on the property. Forcing a criminal action, Adam becomes the target of Cutter's (and indirectly, the town's) wrath. Cutter, a formidable ex-Senator, brings the national media and a civil rights lawyer to Leonard. This act serves only to worsen the deteriorating relationships in the Wells family. Anne inhabits a dark world; her attitude, her writings, and her self-destructive behavior indicate she's desperately unhappy. Adam and Maurene simply can't give up hope that this last-hope move may make things better. But it doesn't. Things go from bad to worse, especially between Anne and Adam. The arrival of one of Adam's and Maurene's old schoolmates, Anne's formation of a teen band, the jealousy of a brutalized young man, and Adam's escalating notoriety all serve to complicate the lives of these damaged souls.  

Is it any good?

Earnest, competent, and with fine performances, this religious drama primarily about family dissension and emotional disorders gets bogged down simply by too many subsidiary themes and plotlines. Subplots included or at least touched upon are: civil liberties and the boundaries of the church, a teen romance, murder, a young girl's mental issues ("cutting," attempted suicide), a brutalizing alcoholic parent, and the possible rekindling of an old affair. Add to that flashbacks of a leading character's difficult childhood, along with a shady connection between two seemingly unrelated characters, and Beyond the Farthest Star simply can't provide the depth and attention that's necessary. A prime example of that is a reference to the teen's medical diagnosis and subsequent treatment; it just isn't enough. Still, for folks who like movies with strong messages about facing up to one's mistakes, the value of honest communication, and faith-assisted redemption, this show will find an audience. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the overall mood and tone of Beyond the Farthest Star. What filmmaking techniques (i.e., lighting, music, etc.) did the director and his team use to create the atmosphere they wanted? 

  • What is the meaning of the term "one-dimensional" as it relates to a character? Which of the characters in this film are one-dimensional? Which are played with depth? Why are complex characters more interesting?

  • Anne Wells is a very troubled teen. What was there about her that attracted Stephen? Did the filmmakers do a good job of showing enough of Anne's "lovability" to explain his interest? Why is it important in movies (or stories, in general) for audiences to understand why characters fall in love with one another? 

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