A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Healer is a 2018 faith-based drama in which a man learns that he has the power to heal the sick. The lead character sneaks out of the bedroom of a married woman with whom he is having an affair; the husband enters the apartment and the lead character manages to talk his way out of the situation. The lead character, eager to see the lead female character, drives drunk to her house. For most of the movie, the lead female character pretends to be a lesbian because she thought the lead male character "would try to get in my pants." Before this, the lead character's uncle laments that the lead character is "sleeping around as if you just discovered your willie." Gun shots from an overzealous police officer. A priest is believed to be dead from a heart attack; two girls with a video camera film what looks like the lead character killing the priest by hitting him, then throwing him into a wheel barrow and spilling him onto the ground. Thugs smash the head of the lead character's friend into a bar. Beer and wine drinking. Some cursing: "bulls--t," "s--t," "crap," "dammit," "hell," "pissed," "bastard," "sucks," "Jesus Christ." The "faith-based" aspect of the movie seems to be more about faith in oneself rather than any particular religion. Halfway through the movie, a tween with terminal cancer enters the story, and teaches the lead characters the importance of believing in miracles and living each day to the fullest. All of the proceeds of the movie benefit SeriousFun Children's Network, a charity that benefits children with serious illnesses.
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What's the story?
In THE HEALER, Alex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a womanizer with a large gambling bill. When thugs sent by Alex's bookie pay him an unfriendly visit, Alex knows he needs to escape. His Uncle Raymond (Jonathan Pryce) offers to pay off all his debts if he lives with him in Nova Scotia for a year, and Alex agrees. Upon settling in, he meets Cecilia (Camilla Luddington), a local veterinarian who helps Alex place an ad in the local paper offering his services as a "healer" of electrical equipment. But when the advertisement promises healing of a different kind, he's visited by locals suffering from health issues. Alex is annoyed and confused by this turn of events, even more so when it seems as if the locals are now healthy again after meeting with Alex. Uncle Raymond informs Alex that he has been given the gift of healing the sick -- it's a gift that skips a generation in his family. His grandfather had it, and now Alex does. But Alex, overwhelmed with this news and still working through the death of his twin brother, is reluctant to accept this seemingly God-given ability. But things change when Alex meets Abigail, a 14-year-old with terminal cancer who has just arrived into town with her family in the hopes that Alex will cure her. Now that he has rejected the gift, Alex no longer has it, but Abigail's zest for life gives Alex second thoughts, and he must choose between being a healer or going back to his old life.
Is it any good?
This movie is an earnest, if uneven, exploration of faith and healing, in many senses of the word. The filmmakers' hearts are clearly in the right place -- all proceeds from The Healer are going to charity, and it's dedicated to Paul Newman and all the tremendous work he did for charity. And unlike many faith-based movies, it manages to let the story present the message rather than heavy-handed veering into dogma. It also doesn't shy away or sugarcoat some adult themes -- adultery, grief, drinking, profanity, the lives of those wavering on their faith in themselves and of higher powers.
Still, even with such idealism and good intentions, it almost feels like two movies in one. Halfway through, we meet Abigail, a teen girl with terminal cancer, who has arrived with her family in the hopes that Alex will use the gift he has just turned down to cure her. The movie takes an abrupt shift, and suddenly centers on Abigail after spending so much time on Alex's struggles. Abigail is free spirited, tells it as she sees it, lives for today, refuses to be defined by cancer, and doesn't accept anything from anyone that smacks of pity. She feels like a plot device shoehorned in rather than a character who perhaps should have been there all along. And furthermore, it's not as if anyone is going to expect a character with terminal cancer in a movie like this to be depressed and self-pitying. Still, The Healer is an above-average contribution to a genre bursting with preachiness and saccharine wholesomeness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about faith-based movies. Do faith-based movies need to be centered on any particular religious faith, or is it enough to center the story on belief in miracles or a higher power?
How is the idea of faith explored in The Healer? How does this compare to other faith-based movies you've seen?
How did the movie's overall message play into how the proceeds of the film are being donated to charity?
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