AN INTERVIEW WITH GOD. Starring: Brenton Thwaites, and David Strathairn. Also starring Yael Grobgias, Hill Harper, and Charibi Dean Kriek. Directed by Perry Lang. Rated PG (Mild themes and coarse language). 97 min.
This American film develops an intriguing plot line. It tells the story of a crisis-ridden journalist who returns home after covering the war in Afghanistan, and who conducts a series of interviews with someone who claims he is God. The journalist is granted three separate interviews, 30 min. in duration, on three consecutive days.
Paul Asher (Brenton Thwaites) is a troubled journalist, who works as a reporter for a New York City tabloid, and whose life is starting to crumble around him. His experiences in the Afghanistan war have traumatised him, and his marriage is failing. The breakdown in his marriage and his war experiences are challenging his Faith. In the midst of his anguish he interviews a person, identified in the movie simply as “The Man” (David Strathairn), and it is an opportunity he finds impossible to resist. Paul at one time believed in God, but now queries everything he was taught about religion after living through the horror of Afghanistan. As his life starts disintegrating, he thinks an interview with the Almighty might help, and for a budding journalist, it could be an interview of a lifetime.
The film provocatively explores Christian themes of significance. It doesn’t focus on the identity of “The Man”. It is much more about finding Faith and exploring human relationships. Paul struggles with how he should interview someone claiming to be God - he doesn’t know how to select the questions he should ask, and “The Man” searches for ways to demonstrate his empathy with Paul’s obvious struggles. The film intriguingly challenges the viewer by asking what would viewers themselves ask God, if they had the chance to interact with God in this way.
The first of the three conversations signals Paul’s lack of faith in God. The two subsequent conversations shift much more to a focus on God interviewing Paul. Deep theological questions about the need for salvation, and free-will are raised. They don’t get answered, but the exchanges between Paul and “The Man” increase in tension as the interviews progress. Paul comes to see the potential consequences of his crisis of Faith which has been tested on the battlefield in war and in his marriage. Providing answers are not the film’s concern. As “The Man” fades out of view in a shaft of light, Paul is left with a message that gives him hope: truth will be revealed to those who participate actively in life’s struggles to find Faith, which is a process, the film says, that “takes time and dedication every day”.
The movie has been written by Christians to provide food for thought to struggling Christians and non-Christians about the serious questions of life. It projects the message that God listens empathically to all those he cares for, and it says that persons wanting answers should try to explore what different solutions might mean for them. The film’s messages are communicated in a plot line that twists and turns. The director of the movie, Perry Lang creates genuine intrigue in our wondering what Paul will ask God, and how God will answer him, and Thwaites and Strathairn work very well together to maintain the tension. Paul is increasingly conflicted as the interviews progress, and “The Man” is increasingly concerned to help him.
The film does not try to anchor itself to scriptural interpretations, nor is it theologically very sophisticated. It works by establishing intriguing scenarios that are resolved positively, and it communicates the significance of love, hope, and self-help in a comforting and reassuring way. The film provides a very human view of God, and a very warm view of how to listen with understanding to persons who are deeply stressed.
The film is best seen as a conversation stimulus for dialogue with those who have the Christian Faith, or are looking to find it. Providing one accepts the film’s fantasy premise - which turns out not to be a particularly hard ask - the movie provides a fascinating excursion into religious belief.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released October 25th., 2018