Fr Mark Whiting, Parish Priest at St Patrick’s Hayling Island, recently went to see the newly released film Father Stu and offers us a review of the film…
Mark Wahlberg has come a long way since New Kids On The Block and the rapper days of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He is now a big box office Hollywood actor and he is also a devout Catholic. Unable to get funding for a film about the inspirational story of a Roman Catholic priest he has used his own money to finance a film about a story that he believes is worth telling – and it is.
Father Stu is a, based on real events, story of Fr Stuart Long (played by Wahlberg). Stuart Long was a foul mouthed, chain smoking, heavy drinking amateur boxer from Helena, Montana, USA who moved to Hollywood to try his luck at acting. Whilst in California he met, and fell in love with, a girl (played by Teresua Ruiz) who was a devout Catholic. He went to Church to woo her, got baptised to win her and from there went on a journey of redemption and a call to priesthood.
It is a story of redemption, repentance and forgiveness and for that the filmmakers must be given full credit. The pacing is awkward with the story telling rushed but the timing is rather slow. And, as with all films, the liturgical purist is left groaning at the green vestments on Palm Sunday (not to mention the use of the 2002 Missal in 1995!).
Stuart has a difficult childhood; he lives at home with his mother (played by Australian actress Jacki Weaver) and is estranged from his alcoholic father (played brilliantly by Mel Gibson). He childhood is dominated by the loss of his brother Stephen. The story arc covering Stuart’s relationship with his father was, in fact, my favourite part of the film.
Despite Stuart’s checkered past he manages to persuade the seminary Rector (played ably by Malcolm McDowell) that he should train for priesthood. It is while at seminary that Stuart develops inclusion body myositis a disease that causes the loss of muscle function. Stuart learns to embrace this as a participation in the sufferings of Christ and (although the Church authorities are initially against ordaining him a priest) he uses it to enhance his ministry.
Too often in film the priest is depicted as a man who struggles with his faith or sinfulness or criminal activities. Here we have a story of a man who turns his life around and never loses faith is the saving power of Jesus Christ. Stuart’s near death experience brings him close to Our Lady and his problems are always a recourse to prayer.
It would be good if Catholic Christians went to see this film to show Hollywood that a story of forgiveness and repentance is good box office. It is also a good chance to take a friend and introduce them to some of the grace that a Christian life can bring.
Click here to watch the official trailer.