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Movie Info




April 2002


90 minutes


Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham, Kurt Fuller, Stacy Edwards, Colleen Camp, and Giancarlo Giannini


John Purdy


Brad Mirman and Keith Giglio


Joseph Girzone


Artisan Entertainment




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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 movie.

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.

Please address your comments to:

Amir Malin, CEO
Artisan Entertainment
2700 Colorado Avenue, 2nd Floor
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 449-9200
Fax: (310) 255-3810
Web page:

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