Dispatches

"All Saints" Digs Into God's Will

New movie tells true story of how immigrants from Myanmar helped a church in Tennessee.

Rev. Michael Spurlock (Corbett) learns where to plant each of the crops to be grown in the fields at All Saints church.

At first, the movie "All Saints" is almost off-putting. No musical score accentuates plot turns or action sequences. No shock and awe scenes spike adrenaline. No main character jumps to some earth moving, crime-busting task. No odious villain elicits a cathartic response for revenge.

As the true story unfolds about how Michael Spurlock, played by John Corbett ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") faced the closing of his All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna Tennessee due to a shrinking congregation and lack of funds, the subtle pace of the movie moves inexorably toward addressing questions about what constitutes God’s will.

Aimee Spurlock (Cara Buono) enjoys her role working with the refugee children at All Saints Church..

When Karen refugees from Myanmar begin attending All Saints along with the core 12 regular congregants, they become part of the answer. As the church welcomes the Karen children and learns about the refugees’ experience in agriculture, Spurlock discerns that God would have the immigrants cultivate crops on church property and sell them so All Saints can become solvent.

After winning approval from the church’s hierarchy, pastor and congregation put the plan into action. When revenue begins to flow after the first harvest, it appears that God has answered their prayers and His will made plain.

When the harvest is threatened, the diverse group wonders why their efforts might prove futile.
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Hope fades when historic flooding that hit Tennessee in 2010 ruins the row upon row of plants the tillers had worked so hard to cultivate. They are then faced with the perennially perplexing question, “Why would God allow this to happen after we worked so hard to follow His will, and after He brought us to this place?”

An answer formed by one of the humble immigrants is surprising for its simplicity and humanity. It cuts eloquently to the heart of the gospel and the nature of God’s will. The understated way the movie uncovers this answer is a disarming contrast to the depth of the answer itself: the divine will binds all of us and is found in the commonplace, even mundane flow of everyday life.

This subtlety is well represented in the daily chores and challenges involving Spurlock and his wife Aimee, played by Screen Actors Guild winner Cara Buono (“Stranger Things,” “Mad Men”). They go about their routines while shouldering questions and fears about their future. They try to communicate with their teenage son about his dealings with friends and the realities of the adult world. Spurlock himself considers leaving his vocation for a job in real estate. While their interactions are matter of fact, their dilemmas underscore the deep human need to comprehend life at its very essentials in relation to the divine presence.

For those who stick with the pace of this anti-movie movie, the reward is most enlightening.

                                                                                                                                             –Jeff McDonald


“All Saints” was released on August 25 by Affirm Films/Provident Films. See more at www.allsaintsmovie.com/photosvideos.

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