While it fails as a compelling film, it does not lack authenticity.
by Steve Pulaski
Kevan Otto's A Question of Faith is a paltry effort, especially considering this is likely going to be the director's most widely seen film thus far. Otto directed the direct-to-DVD Christian drama Online, a story about a man who rekindles with an old flame via social media and rights the wrong of infidelity by becoming a godly man. Since then, Otto's focus as a writer and director has been providing cinema with stories about the Christian faith with certain narrative inclusions that firmly set them in the present.
Consider A Question of Faith, where a texting-and-driving accident with serious repercussions is the central event of the movie. Thankfully, Otto and screenwriter Ty Manns don't bother with a terribly contrived speech about the wrongs of texting and driving. However, the two pair up to give us a stunted movie that transitions unevenly between proselytizing and insulting our intelligence with a premise justifying "God's Plan" that's downright hokum.
The film follows three families, all operating independently until, of course, their lives are brought together by fate, which succeeds a real tragedy. The primary couple is David and Theresa Newman (Richard T. Jones and Kim Fields), who live with their two boys, one of them, 12-year-old Eric (Caleb T. Thomas). Another is John Danielson (C. Thomas Howell), owner of a construction company on the verge of going bankrupt when his aspiring vocalist daughter Michelle (Amber Thompson) has a life-threatening heart condition that requires major organ donation. And finally, there's Kate Hernandez (Jaci Velazquez), owner of a local diner with her daughter Maria (Karen Valero), who has dreams of leaving and going off to college.
Tragedy strikes the Newman and Hernandez family simultaneously, when Maria's careless habit of texting and driving leaves Eric in a hospital bed with no brain activity and no other option but imminent death. Eric's organs are then used to aid Michelle and her recovery, and Maria lands in juvenile detention. David, on the other hand, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt due to backing out of his promise to pick Eric up for his basketball game that day, starts to intensely question his faith. The owner of a church that needs major renovations, he also struggles to find a competent construction company to commit to such a large project. I'm sure you can guess who he calls on.
A recognizable face in the form of War Room's T.C. Stallings appears as one of David's assistants at the church. Jones and Stallings appear to be the only two men doing any real acting here, as most everyone else appears uneasy and stiff in front of the camera. It doesn't help that Manns gives them some insufferably lethargic dialog in the form of lengthy monologues and unrealistic conversations that sound like "What Would Jesus Do?" pamphlets at your local youth group.
The same problem Otto had with Online is present in A Question of Faith, only this time it's not entirely his fault. Characters don't feel like characters, but vessels for spiritual conversation. As a result, we know the people in this film only as broadly drawn characteristics and their response to tragedy by way of their connection, or lack thereof, with God.
The most ludicrous detail about Otto's film, however, comes in its unbelievable justification of the horrible accident and death of Eric. The film essentially summarizes that "God's Plan" was for Eric to die before he even got a chance to experience life and leave the Newman family with a large hole in their heart, aided only by the catharsis that an unruly and miserable cad's daughter got to live thanks to the wonders of organ donation. Perhaps my own secularity is clouding my judgement, but I don't know how that is supposed to offer anyone, especially a grieving parent who is now suffering from pain no one should have to endure, any kind of peace. It's quite disgusting, and before you write me off, consider how you would feel if someone told you that after losing your child at the hands of a careless teenager.
A Question of Faith doesn't lack authenticity, for you could believe everyone actively involved in the film is a devout believer, but it does lack anything that would normally resemble a compelling film. The performances feel stunted, Manns' script does no one any favors, Otto's direction and accompanying production values are hollow, and the entire cast lacks any meaningful chemistry thanks to writing that favors philosophy over people.
On a final, distribution note, A Question of Faith is actually not a homegrown property of Pure Flix Entertainment, the driving force behind most theatrically released, faith-based entertainment in the United States. It was a late acquisition from Silver Lining Entertainment, and one of the film's key producers, David A.R. White, is the founder of Pure Flix and one of the company's most recognizable actors. Its acquisition is likely a move to help diversify the company's catalog, which has largely been dominated by the same archetypal white people and families since its inception. Given the overwhelming success of the more religious-based Madea offerings and the aforementioned War Room, one wonders why Pure Flix hasn't reached out to broaden their horizons sooner, for it's a largely barren market and they're the captain of the respective ship as of today.
Steve's Grade: D