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FATHER STU gets 6/10 The power of the priest


Directed by Rosalind Ross

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Teresa Ruiz, Jacki Weaver, Mel Gibson

6/10

This is a rather stock standard biopic about someone finding a higher calling through adversity. This is a watchable enough and somewhat compelling film, but despite some sizeable budget production value and star power, feels like it could have been made straight for the religious channel.

Stu (Mark Wahlberg) is a boxer who finds himself faced with early retirement due to his head injuries. He moves to California, trying to get a job in acting, though can only manage getting some commercial and extra gigs. His life apparently changes when he sees Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and immediately falls in love with her…just ‘cause. He tries wooing her by pretending to be interested in her religion and going to her church, which seems to be one way of getting more members.

But his life then actually does change when he’s involved in a motorcycle accident, has a premonition, and decides to join a seminary to pursue priesthood, to the dismay of his fellow priests in training who feel he’s doing this for nefarious reasons.

Further health issues begin to plague Stu’s life as he keeps himself keenly dedicated to God and the priesthood. The film is decently sentimental as it hits the right emotional marks as it navigates (in a bit of a wonky and dramatically underwhelming way) the troubles Stu faces and how it reunites his family, his mother (Jacki Weaver), and father (Mel Gibson).

But what’s most troublesome for such a film is that it doesn’t even feel religious. It may throw out the odd axiom and aphorism here and there, but it doesn’t truly embrace a spiritual vibe, nor does it seem to delve deeper into the religion. A non-religious film like Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot, which features a similar story of a man finding spirituality through his disability, ended up being more religious and including a more overt religious reference with his own guardian angel.

The story here is a decent one with uplifting morals about fighting through your challenges and using them to get closer to a higher power. But there doesn’t seem to be the greatest amount of resistance from the titular character – he soon enough starts accepting each setback with an amount of grace that alleviates the power of the story. And such a story could have been told through a 20-minute YouTube short-doco, rather than be dramatised into such a film. It’s not a particularly bad dramatisation, with some goodwill and some well-earned and well-placed humour here in there to keep the film light and not too depressing.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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