Always intrigued by a true story, bewildered by the lack of reviews, yet aware that faith-based movies may have substandard production, I ventured to the West Chester AMC, or rather to The All Saints Church in Smyrna, Tennessee. And, a worthwhile trip it was. With a budget of only $2 million, at times it felt like I was in a dark Batman movie. (Turn on the lights, Mr. Director.) At times, the dialogue needed some help, but this is a very moving story. If Reese Witherspoon had bought the rights to this story, it would be receiving some significant attention. All Saints, and the Karen, deserve a bigger voice.
Michael Spurlock, a newly ordained pastor, is assigned to a failing church (12 members) with a huge mortgage. His job is to inventory the church and get it ready for sale. Except for the grouchy Forrest, the members seem resigned to its sale. While readying the church for sale, Micheal passes out flyers to attend the church which are seen by the Karen, a refugee group from Burma (now Myanmar). Expecting to help a few, the group eventually reaches 100. In order to help feed them and to raise money to pay the mortgage, Micheal convinces the reluctant Bishop to give him some time to raise crops on the 30 acres. Knowing little about farming, including the vagaries of the weather, All Saints suffers setback after setback. The ending will not be what you expect.
In many ways, this was like an old flashback to the TV show Northern Exposure. John Corbett plays the pastor in his usual understated fashion similar to his role in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Barry Corbin as Forrest is his cantankerous self with a heart of gold. His character gives the movie some needed humor in the latter part. Cara Buono plays Michael’s wife (Aimee) and she is responsible for the musical education of the Karen children. Nelson Lee (Ye Win) is very good as the young English speaking leader of the Karen. Ye Win’s bond with Forrest starts the bond of the Church members and the Karen, which then begins even more ties to the community. For those of you who remember An Officer and a Gentleman, you will again see David Keith as a former Church member and businessman who lends a hand.
Even though this is a movie about All Saints Church, and there are references to God and God’s will, it never becomes overbearing. The story is more about faith and community and friends, and how a Church is built, not from the outside but from the inside. The movie reminds us the a church is walls but a Church is people. If you watch the whole movie, only the grouchiest among you will fail to find this to be a worthwhile two hours. The production is worse than a Lifetime movie, but the story is much, much better.