Movie Review: ShadowlandsQuick Plot Summary: A moving portrayal of the unexpected romance and related events in noted theologian C.S. Lewis' life.
Suggested Ages: 13+ (younger would be bored silly and have trouble processing thematic content)
This underrated movie, which is somewhat based on real events in C.S. Lewis' life (the noted theologian that also wrote the Narnia books), could be considered a real gem. After reading my description below, you'll probably think "this is NOT a feel good movie" and in a way you'd be right - but it is a movie that you will likely not regret seeing one bit and will be glad for the experience.
A tearjearker love story (I have found it is impossible for me not to cry in this movie even when I tell myself I won't) that is wonderfully acted by Anthony Hopkins (his best work as far as I can tell), this movie is great because it forces us all to deal with the real issues of life that we all really need to deal with and come to grips with but we really don't want to. Things such as pain, hurt, death, afterlife, and what we really believe. It shows us that it's one thing to declare something as head-knowledge, but when that head-knowledge gets tested in our own personal real-life experiences (i.e. pain) - well, that's where the rubber meets the road.
I do have some notable theological issues with the framework of how God is presented as it relates to pain and suffering here on this earth. However, because that worldview itself is in essence called into question to some degree by the end of the film (where it is realized that that theological framework can even be a stumbling block to pressing into God in the midst of pain), I think this film can still be very worthwhile if processed correctly. My book, "Where's the Abundant Life?", I believe can be a great help in this process, especially in helping to understand better how to reconcile a good God with the pain we see in our world.
I particularly found it striking that in the movie they merely seemed to just "accept" the circumstances thrust upon them without even really trying to exercise faith for healing, etc. As someone who has personally witnessed a person who was given a serious terminal diagnosis that chose to fight in faith and believe God for healing, defy the doctors and their "diagnosis", I really can't help but wonder what might have happened if they had taken a different approach. There is an interaction between faith and healing - you can see it in the vast majority of individual healing cases that Jesus performed in the Gospels. There's an undercurrent to this movie that every bad thing that happens to us is God's will for us to just accept and submit to, which is something I would ADAMANTLY disagree with.
Nevertheless, this movie is still worthwhile for forcing us to consider the reality of our faith in a clear and straightforward way, especially since there will come a time when we all must leave this world. It does help when watching this movie (because of where they leave the viewer) if you know a bit of the backstory in that after the events depicted, Lewis went on to document his feelings in a unique work ("A Grief Observed") - his faith was strengthened at the end of the day, and that his stepson who is still alive is a fellow believer in Christ and as far as I know really now has the hope which he stated he wished for at the end of the movie.
Anyone who has ever loved, and lost, will instantly be able to identify with this movie and the emotions involved. Yes, you can tell from my description that this is a "sad movie" - but it's sad in a good way. Though we frequently try to avoid, we all need to live in reality and address the hard questions of life head on. This movie forces that hand in a very poignant way with an excellent, moving story that is well-acted. If you walk away from this movie questioning your faith, that's okay as long as it leads you to look deeper and go deeper with Jesus - just as Lewis did. As believers, we NEED to not only know what we believe, but why we believe it on a deep level.
Reviewed by Christopher Long,