Wednesday, February 18, 2015

my review of "The Song"

Tonia and I enjoyed "The Song" last night. After its disappointing box office performance and hearing it get a range of reviews, I was pleasantly surprised. I'd give it 3 or 3.5 stars (out of 4); the film is well-done and really well-filmed. I would only ding it for being a bit stilted in places, a bit too quick/clean at the end, and too predictable throughout to be ideal. It is comparable with Fireproof-- both are must-see movies on the topic of marriage-- but better done, artistically.

I'm guessing part of the problem, box-office-wise, was describing the film succinctly and targeting the film at various demographics. The movie is billed as inspired by Song of Solomon. But it ends up being more Ecclesiastes than Song of Solomon-- and perhaps that's part of the challenge in putting the film into a box/category.

FWIW: We got mixed advice on watching it with the boys (ages 10-16)-- and invited the older two. They weren't all that interested, so we didn't push. Once we got into it, we were not even opposed to our third son (12 years old) keeping an eye on it. And now, we wished we had pushed at least the older two to watch it with us.

Slippery Slopes and Sins of Omission & Commission

I was most impressed by the subtlety of what turned out to be the film's key moment. The husband is well into the slippery slope of his struggle, but things can still be turned around. He's shown the ability to fend off a lot of temptation, but now he's made a series of unwise choices and things are in a position to get ugly. He's about to be a big-time knucklehead, but the film does not let the wife off the hook.

First, she clearly struggles with "leave and cleave" issues. That, by itself, was probably sufficient to avoid or at least head him off the poor path he's walking. She also comes off as insular and (at least a bit) fragile. In any case, her failure to join him on the road-- at all-- is huge and gives her big culpability through a sin of omission.

Second, they depict the couple's struggle with physical intimacy in a way that is nicely murky. He makes a special effort to come home briefly in the middle of a long tour, but things don't work out well. Is the problem that he's away too much and then too insensitive when he comes home? Is the problem that she's too cold, doesn't recognize his efforts, and isn't doing anything close to her best? Or is it, as it usually is in these contexts, a good bit of both?

Third, there's no evidence of her asking him any "hard questions". Things are obviously not ideal in their marriage; he's on the road a bunch, surrounded by a range of temptations; and he's working closely with an attractive female. Duh; hello.

A Segue on the Importance of Community

A related matter is that nobody seems to be involved in Christian community, living out whatever faith they have as "Lone Rangers". This is *necessarily* less effective, less biblical, and ultimately incoherent in Trinitarian-Christian terms. The band members seem like nice enough people, but there's no relationship portrayed beyond the superficial-- and nobody intervenes. Ol' Dad is a hard worker; he loves his grandson; he's a "tough guy" who wants to make sure his daughter doesn't end up with a loser-- including not settling for merely a "said" faith in her suitors. But his approach to life is also not well-connected with a robust view of Christianity or Christian community.

Two other, smaller observations, along the same lines: The chapel is an effective metaphor in this. The couple gets married in (literally) a shell of a church. When things start going south, the husband "finishes" the chapel, completing the shell. It still has the look of a pretty monument and the timing gives it a I Samuel 14:35-ish feel to the effort. Later, he damages the chapel in anger. And then, at the end, he finishes it "properly"-- this time with pews, as if anticipating at least some community.

Second, the film has an us/country/pure vs. them/city/impure feel to it. The full-blown separatism of the "us" looks attractive in places, but is ultimately portrayed as far from the ideal for the couple and is not ineffective in engaging the world-- consistent with City on a Hill's worldview and eschatology.) 

Wrap Up

Back to the husband/wife-- and applications to us-- to wrap this up: How often does "this" happen in real life? I've heard about many cases and seen a few. The dude makes obviously bad/stupid choices-- and we bang on him for being a moron, etc. Meanwhile, the wife's more subtle sins (often of omission) make things unnecessarily difficult and increase the power of the temptations at hand.

They're nice enough people on the front end. But without an abiding faith, a robust Christian worldview, progress as disciples of Jesus, and vibrant Christian community, abundant life will be out of reach and they are unlikely to have the wisdom and courage to stand underneath the weight of various temptations.

Let "The Song" be good (and full) counsel/warning for us-- in our own marriages and as we help others in our daily lives.


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