The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2007
First off, what do we mean by "redeeming" films? They're all stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.
It's interesting to note that six of our ten choices are all based on true stories. Maybe that just goes to show that some of the best redemptive stories—at least the ones that move us the most—are those that are really true. And so, our list:
Be still, and know that I am God. If ever the words of Psalm 46:10 could be applied to a movie, this is certainly the one. German filmmaker Philip Grö ning spent six months living with Carthusian monks at France's Grande Chartreuse Monastery, documenting the tranquil, contemplative everyday lives of the extraordinary men who live there. It adds up to three hours of nearly silent meditation that is simultaneously slow moving and spellbinding—a film to be experienced more so than merely watched. The film caused several of us to ask ourselves, "If these men can spend entire days—indeed, their very lives—in devotion and service to God, why is it so hard for me to spend 10 minutes a day doing the same?" A remarkable piece of filmmaking that gives rich new meaning to the term, "quiet time." (Our review.)
Long before we saw this film, its official synopsis made us nervous: "A lonely, delusional young man buys a life-size sex doll on the Internet and falls in love with her, telling people it's his girlfriend." Based on that premise alone, we considered skipping it outright. But we're very glad we didn't, because this was one of the sweetest, most sensitive movies of the year, and, surprisingly, a powerful look at the body of Christ in action—and the relentless and patient nature of God's love. When Lars brings his new "inflatable friend" home—and yes, their "relationship" is pure and chaste—it's heartwarming to see how his family, friends, and fellow churchgoers (including even the most skeptical among them) love him unconditionally by playing along and embracing him in spite of his bizarre behavior. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll walk away with a smile and warm fuzzies. (Our review.)
Exhibit A (or is it B or C or …) in what was a year of films with pro-life themes is a charming, quirky, and witty look into the life of a whip-smart 16-year-old girl (played brilliantly by Ellen Page) who gets pregnant after a one-night stand with her boyfriend. At first, she plans to abort, but after running into a teen pro-life activist outside the clinic, she realizes the fetus she's carrying is actually a living, growing baby. She changes her mind, decides to carry the baby to term, and begins a quest for "the perfect parents" to adopt the child. There's some rough language and teen sex talk, but the storylines are mostly redemptive—in addition to Juno's choice to have the baby (which her stepmom calls "a miracle from Jesus"), her parents are portrayed as loving and supportive (instead of the dolts we often see in teen comedies), and there's a nice exploration into the topic of unconditional love. (Our review.)
Can one person change the world? You bet, and no film indicates that notion more than this one, a biopic about the life of William Wilberforce, a devout Christian politician who almost single-handedly was responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Ioan Gruffudd brings both gravitas and a dose of humanity to the role, portraying the 19th Century Parliamentarian as a man on a mission, driven by his love for God and love for all mankind. En route, he meets former slave trader John Newton (played by the terrific Albert Finney), the writer of the hymn "Amazing Grace" who motivates Wilberforce to persist in his quest. It's a "history film" without being dull, and a "religious film" without being preachy. But perhaps most of all, it's a movie that will convince any viewer that he or she can also make a difference in a sin-sick world desperately in need of social justice, mercy and compassion. (Our review.) (Discussion Guide.)