MOVIE REVIEWS FOR CHRISTIANS raise a host of problems. The problem is always the different criteria by which the suitability of a film is critiqued. Is a movie with an R rating immoral? The Passion of the Christ was rated R. Does bad language make a movie improper? Depends on whether the movie glamorizes or condemns the language. How about violence or sexual content? As we critique and review movies, Believers need to think with discernment. I believe the following principles will help us think critically about what is good and bad in the media.

First, all movies are trying to say something. No matter how trivial, there is no movie without a message. Is that message compatible with Christianity? That is the question.

Second, how the movie says it is important. A movie that makes sin look good is always suspect. When criminals, bloodthirsty conquerors, or patently immoral people, sin and the movie makes that sin attractive and without consequences, The movie is encouraging you to sin. That is never good. Even though it contains no nudity, four-letter words, or violence it is still an evil movie. Whenever a movie says crime pays, that selfish ambition is to be admired, or that infidelity is harmless fun, it is patently non-Christian and should be avoided. On the other hand, when a movie uses immorality, four-letter words, and selfishness to show us that sin never pays, that the happy life is the virtuous life, and that the sinful life is tragic, it may be not only permissible, but to be encouraged. (It is a different matter with our children).

Third, nudity or explicit sexual activity is pornography, and Christians should never watch, no matter how good the film’s message.

With these principles in mind, I want to recommend the movie, Calvary. It is R for language and violence. It is dark, shocking at times, and not for the faint-hearted, but the message is strongly Christian and most powerful.

Calvary is the story of a good and virtuous Catholic priest and his conflict with the evil inherent in the fallen nature of his Irish parishioners. Like Christ, the priest is hated by the “religious” in his village. They persecute him because of his goodness. It exposes their corruption. In one of the opening scenes, each of his enemies is shown receiving communion from him during Sunday Mass. 

The movie opens with the priest in the confessional. A man, whom the priest does not know, and cannot see, confesses that he was abused by a priest as a boy for five years. That priest is now dead, but in retribution, he declares that he is going to kill this good priest in exactly seven days. He tells the priest he has one week to get his house in order.

The rest of the movie is the story of the following week. As the priest goes about his duties he is mocked by the village homosexual, abused by a couple in his church engaged in adultery, and ridiculed by a wealthy parish cynic. When he visits a murderer in prison his parishioners criticize him for extending grace to a person they self-righteously consider unworthy. 

Finally, the movie arrives at the seventh day when the good priest must confront his potential murderer.

Calvary is a story about the violent collision between sin and virtue. It is also a powerful story of forgiveness. The shocking surprise ending will leave you thinking for days. The title is aptly taken.

This movie is not on Netflix, but we found it on Amazon Prime.

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