Epiphany Films, LLC
Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham,
Kurt Fuller, Stacy Edwards, Colleen Camp, and Giancarlo Giannini
Brad Mirman and Keith Giglio
ON THE NOVEL BY:
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By Movieguide Magazine
- Joshua is almost a critic proof movie. After all, the bad
guys are hypercritical, even if theyre in clerical garb, and they are opposing
Joshuas love and grace. Therefore, who would want to criticize such love
and be classified in the wrong camp? That said, Joshua is a wonderful,
sweet movie in many ways -- but dare we say? -- it has some flaws, both theological
and dramatic, though those flaws do not diminish the overall impact of the
The movie opens with a voiceover talking about the day Joshua came to the
little town of Auburn. As he settles there to ply his trade as a wood carver,
and as the town gets to know him, they realize that hes quite extraordinary.
He is always there for people to help them, to teach them, to talk with them.
He even starts rebuilding the old black Baptist church.
Soon, the whole town is trying to help him, with the exception of the Catholic
priest, Father Tordone, played wonderfully by F. Murray Abraham. Like the
Grand Inquisitor of Dostoyevskis profound tale, Father Tordone believes that
Joshua is undermining the authority of the Catholic Church. Father Tordone
teaches hellfire and brimstone with no grace to keep people subjected to his
vision of religion. On the other hand, his assistant, Father Pat, sees Joshua
for who he is and quickly becomes Joshuas disciple. He even throws away his
collar but takes it back to stand up to Father Tordone.
Father Tordone is not the only minister whose authority is ruffled. Joshua
goes to a faith healing, tent revival meeting to confront the fraudulent faith
healer, but does so with love. He says, "Youd really like to have faith,
but you dont know what faith is." Joshua then proceeds to demonstrate
this by healing a blind woman.
Father Tordone appeals to the Vatican. He engineers it so that Joshua has
to go to Rome. Father Pat realizes that Joshuas time in Auburn always led
to Rome. Thus, the story leads to a confrontation in the Vatican.
The book Joshua is marvelous and deserves a good read by anyone who
sees this movie. The movie tries hard to do justice to the book but pulls
its punches. Although made on a low budget, it has a rich look to it, with
camerawork by Bruce Surtees, one of the best cinematographers of all time.
The problem is not in the technical expertise; its in the crafting of the
storyline. Since the first part of the movie has no jeopardy, the plot wanders.
In the middle of the movie, the jeopardy is Father Tordone, which some Roman
Catholics may not like. The movies resolution, however, trims the sails of
the plot in such a way as to make everyone a good guy. The problem with that
is that the story doesnt have a payoff. After all, in other modern renditions
of the Gospel, The Cotton Patch Gospels, or in Jesus Christ Superstar
or even Godspell, it is clear that eventually the price that Jesus
must pay for confronting the religious authorities is death. Joshua,
the movie, however, does not develop the story to its ultimate conclusion.
Of course, it is not intended to be a direct allegory of the first coming
of Jesus Christ. As the book was, it is more of a parable on celluloid.
Joshua has an ending much like the book that brings Joshuas real
mission to a moving conclusion. Rather than give that away, let's just say
it gracefully exonerates the filmmakers from any hint of anti-Catholicism.
All of this dramatic criticism aside, the movie is so focused on Joshuas
love and grace that it is a refreshing change from all the apocalyptic films
focusing on judgment. Remember: Jesus is both fully God and fully man. The
Gospel involves both law and grace. The Holy God of creation is to be feared
and loved. In His Word, He tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of all wisdom and later that the culmination of that wisdom is understanding
the love of Jesus Christ, who triumphed over our sins that invoked our fear,
through His love made manifest in His death and Resurrection. In the words
of Joshua, "Tell them my love is real!" In fact, the need for Jesus
to suffer and die for our sins is meaningless apart from the penalty imposed
for mans sins by Gods Law and the revelation of the awesome love of God,
which led Jesus to the Cross to pay the penalty that man deserves. Now that
He has paid the penalty, we are free to live in His love - eternally.
Ignoring the unity of His Law and His grace vitiates His Gospel.
Joshua intentionally focuses on the latter, at times to the exclusion
of the former. The message of the film is sent early in the film when Joshua
starts to tear down the ruins of the Baptist church and says to the shocked
townspeople, "Sometimes you have to tear down before you can rebuild."
Joshua pulls at the heartstrings. The acting, direction and camerawork
all lead to a poignant epiphany by the end of the movie. The editorial staff
of MOVIEGUIDE® prays that it will lead many to reconsider the claims of
Christ. MOVIEGUIDE® applauds the filmmakers for tackling a difficult subject
and recommends that everyone go see Joshua.
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