Ragamuffin

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Ragamuffin Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful faith-driven film on Christian artist is intense.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Art can help people work through suffering. There's a strong focus on redemption through the Christian faith.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central character is a troubled artist who struggles to reconcile his faith, addictions, loneliness, and dysfunctional relationship with his father, all in an effort to be closer to God or more like Jesus. He makes many bad choices regarding drinking, smoking, and alienation from friends and family and seeks guidance and resolution in art and music rather than therapy.

Violence

Intense scenes of sadness, emotional abuse between a father and son, and sustained struggle with alcohol and depression. Discussions of a little brother who passed away. A man breaks phone-booth glass with the phone after a distressing call. A man collapses onto a floor and dies while a man sobs over him. A man receives a call that his father has died. A car skids out of control and flips over.

Language

Frequent use of profanity such as "damn," "hell," and "pissed."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Casual cigarette smoking throughout. Several shots of a man swigging from bottles of liquor or beer, sometimes stumbling drunk or hungover or referencing feeling hungover.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ragamuffin is an intense, searching movie based on the real-life story of Christian artist Rich Mullin's struggle with alcoholism, addiction, isolation, depression, and his art and faith. It digs deep into unsettling scenes from his past, features several instances of verbal abuse from his father, and scenes of drinking and hangovers but also intense artistic exploration and growth. Though it's ultimately a bracing and honest exploration of what it means to try to live an artistic life in keeping with the tenets of Christianity and is a thinking man's approach to faith, the mature themes and emotional intensity make this better for teens.

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What's the story?

Rich Mullins is a talented Christian artist called to write songs about his faith, but his father's disappointment over his lack of interest in the farm and stern parenting are only the beginning of his lifelong struggle to reconcile his art, family, friendships, and God. Instead, Mullins slowly alienates those who care about him while he fights addictions, isolation, and depression, still striving to push himself as an artist whose songs bring others closer to God.

Is it any good?

RAGAMUFFIN is a brooding film aesthetically and philosophically that touches on a number of deep, existential questions about existence and faith. Rich Mullins could've just been a wealthy pop singer churning out hits for Amy Grant and other giants of '90s country, but instead he went deeper, both in his art and in his life, by diving into the wreckage of a dysfunctional upbringing and questioning every assumption about religion thrown at him. What emerges is a sad picture of a talented man who couldn't quite get right with the world but whose life acts as a kind of proxy for the kind of believers God is said to love best -- the ragamuffins. Those interested in deeper looks at Christianity or even Christian music will find a lot to chew on here, but the heavy themes of isolation, drinking, and dysfunction and the long runtime are unlikely to resonate with young kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's depiction of faith. Do you think this is a realistic portrayal of some of the common struggles of the faithful? Why, or why not?

  • How do Rich Mullins' feelings about God and his father affect his life? How are they connected?

  • Why do you think so many films portray artists as unhappy people? Do you think it's an accurate reflection? If so, why?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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