Come Sunday

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Come Sunday Movie Poster Image
Real-life story explores faith, spirituality; mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 106 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Be willing to accept and follow enlightenment and personal faith. Strongly promotes honoring and adhering to one's convictions -- staying true to beliefs even when tested. Traditional precepts and religious doctrine may be challenged. Doing the right thing supersedes taking the easy path. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central figure is willing to sacrifice fame, comfort, and universal acceptance by a religious community in order to follow a set of beliefs that challenges existing ones. He's brave, insightful, determined, and resourceful as he slowly takes an unpopular stand. While filmmakers attempt to provide context for the traditional believers, and some of the adversaries are sincere and compassionate, a few of the religious leaders exhibit both arrogance and self-righteousness. Female roles are small, but in one revelatory instance, the hero's wife is shown to be a force to be reckoned with.

Violence
Sex

A gay character and his story -- including Pentecostal view of homosexuality as a sin -- figure prominently. 

Language

"Hell," "ass," "bulls--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Red wine on a plane ride.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Come Sunday is the fact-based story of American minister Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who dared to challenge strict Pentecostal doctrine. In 1998, during the genocide taking place in Rwanda, Pearson reinterpreted both the Bible and his personal experience of a compassionate God to preach "The Gospel of Inclusion." Called a heretic by the Pentecostal establishment, Pearson, who had a national presence, faced censure and loss of the community he'd built. Pearson's story was originally broadcast as an episode of Ira Glass's This American Life on National Public Radio in 2005. One of the central characters is a young, closeted gay man who becomes a significant inspiration for Pearson. Except a few mild swear words such as "hell," "ass," and "bulls--t." Mature themes make this best for teens; it's recommended as a film that may provide rich family discussions about integrity and commitment to your beliefs.

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What's the story?

Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a star in the Pentecostal world in COME SUNDAY. A charismatic and sincere African American minister, Bishop Pearson has been able to successfully integrate black and white parishioners in Higher Dimensions Church, his large, thriving Tulsa house of worship. Pearson’s congregation, like other "mega-churches" in 1998, has a major presence on television and a national following, and it functions as a carefully maintained business run by one of the community's most loyal members (Jason Segel). Things take a dramatic turn when Pearson, highly moved after watching newsreel footage of the Rwandan massacre, hears God's voice. Though the Pentecostal doctrine clearly delineates that only those people who voluntarily commit to being saved by Jesus Christ will find a permanent home in heaven -- all others will be sent to hell -- the God who speaks to Pearson has a different message. Innocents, like the Rwandan children, cannot possibly be so easily abandoned. The more Pearson opens his mind and his heart to a compassionate God, the more he becomes certain that other innocents, including "sinners" who are gay, non-Christians, and any who have not asked for salvation, will still have God's and Jesus' love. Pearson's sermon expressing these transformative views sets off a calamitous series of events, which culminate in an intense face-off with the Pentecostal hierarchy, including Pearson's lifelong mentor, Oral Roberts (Martin Sheen).  

Is it any good?

Much more than a "religious" film, this story, based on real events, will resonate with all who hope they would stand firm in their beliefs and take an honorable path, regardless of the consequences. Chiwetel Ejiofor is magnificent in the role of Carlton Pearson; authentic and forceful, he sensitively conveys both his commitment to taking risks and his deep-seated reluctance to do so. He is ably supported by Condola Rashad as his nontraditional wife forced into conventionality, as well as by Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, and Lakeith Stanfield. In an otherwise stellar production, the script is only adequate, with some clichés, on-the-nose dialogue, and elements of predictability -- which, in all honesty, would be hard to avoid given the events as they unfolded. Despite that, Come Sunday is a movie worth seeing. It offers families an opportunity to talk about the awful effects of divisiveness and intolerance of others' beliefs, both in church and in the community at large. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fact that 20 years have passed since the events of Come Sunday took place. In what ways has our culture changed over those two decades? What signs, if any, are there that "The Gospel of Inclusion" is more acceptable, or even desirable? Specifically, how have attitudes about members of the LGBTQ community evolved?  

  • Do you think that the filmmaking team tried to be fair to those who opposed Carlton Pearson's metamorphosis? Discuss how Henry was a character who showed that at least one of Bishop Pearson's adversaries was sincere in his beliefs. In what ways could both Pearson and Henry be seen as honorable, despite their differences?

  • How did this movie illustrate such character strengths as compassion, humility, integrity, and perseverance?

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