All Saints

All-Saints-rev

All Saints  (2017)    Affirm Films/Drama    RT: 108 minutes    Rated PG (thematic elements)    Director: Steve Gomer    Screenplay: Steve Armour    Music: Louie Schultz (editor)    Cinematography: Eduardo Enrique Mayen    Release date: August 25, 2017 (US)    Cast: John Corbett, Cara Buono, Myles Moore, Nelson Lee, Barry Corbin, David Keith, Gregory Alan Williams, Patrick Johnson, Angela Fox, Chonda Pierce, Jessejames Locorriere.

 

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 In a season typically define by noisy action spectacles and crude R-rated comedies, a movie like All Saints is a small miracle. It’s a quiet little drama about a novice pastor (played nicely by My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s John Corbett) trying to save a small rural church slated for closure. Instead of big moments designed to elicit big emotional responses, it tells its story simply and directly, allowing the events to speak for themselves and draw more organic responses from the viewers. While All Saints is a faith-based film, it’s never preachy or heavy-handed in delivering its message about God working in mysterious ways. As such, it’s more accessible to secular audiences looking for a good movie rather than a sermon.

 all saintsMichael Spurlock, a former paper salesman-turned-pastor, has been assigned by the diocese to oversee the closing of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, TN. With no money and only twelve congregants, the church is to be sold to make way for a big-box store. It’s supposed to be a temporary placement but we know darn good and well that this will change. Sure enough, the good Lord sends a group of Burmese immigrants to the church. They are refugees from a war-torn country with no money and no place to call home. Michael takes them in and helps the men find jobs. This is all he needs to have a change of heart about closing All Saints. Unfortunately, money is still an issue. They don’t have any. Believing he heard God speaking to him, Michael comes up with the idea of farming the land surrounding the church and selling the crops as a means of income. This will surely save their church. There is some question as to whether the voice Michael heard was that of God or his own ego.

 So why farming? The Burmese refugees were farmers in their own country and know what they’re doing. A friendship develops between Michael and Ye Win (Lee, Blade: The Series), the leader of the immigrants and one of the only ones that speak English. Michael has the additional challenge of winning over the locals who didn’t exactly welcome him or the immigrants with open arms. That’s especially true of Forrest (Corbin, Northern Exposure), a cranky Vietnam vet vehemently opposed to the idea of starting a farm. It’s going to take more than prayer to win him over. There’s also a subplot about Michael’s wife Aimee (Buono, Stranger Things) starting a choir despite the church not even having a piano (it was sold long ago).

 All Saints is a pleasant, pleasing film with a strong Capra-esque feel in the way it plays up the folksy qualities of the small-town locals. Forrest may be harsh and tough but he a good heart and is ready to step up when (a) it counts and (2) it’s deserved. It’s a foregone conclusion that all will end well but the road getting there will have its fair share of rough patches. Also, the outcome might not be the exact one everybody hopes for. I won’t ruin it for you but I was reminded of Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. In the end, All Saints is a feel-good story. It’s also based on a true story. It was filmed at the actual All Saints Church in Tennessee.

 The acting is really good especially by Corbett who brings an earnest quality to Michael Spurlock. He initially comes off as a huckster, something Forrest immediately calls him out on, but learns a lesson in humility. Corbin is perfectly cast as the cantankerous Forrest, an old fart if ever there was one. He’s one of those character actors that improve with age. Somebody needs to cast him in a No Country for Old Men-type movie in a starring role. Lee is very good as Ye Win, a man of strength and quiet dignity. All Saints has a bit of humor and a lot of good will. It’s also refreshing to see a movie that puts a positive face on immigration in a time when it’s become even more of a divisive issue. It’s free of all the fear-mongering about immigrants being terrorists or cartel members. In short, All Saints is a good movie. It’s light-hearted and agreeable. You can even take the kids.

TRIVIA TIDBIT: John Wise Win, who plays Po in the movie, is the son of the real Ye Win. I wish the makers had done more with his friendship with Michael’s son Atticus (Moore).

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