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‘Father Stu’ Becomes a Surprise Netflix Success

The faith-based film genre is frequently fodder for ridicule (by both those inside and outside the church). But every so often, a faith-based movie becomes a surprising mainstream hit. Well, don’t look now, but judging by the Netflix charts, we may have another faith-based film success story on our hands.

Father Stu is a biopic about Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-Catholic-priest who develops a rare, progressive muscle disorder. The story explores themes of hope, suffering, and redemption.

It was a passion project for actor Mark Wahlberg, who stars in the central role as Stuart Long and personally covered much of the production cost.

The film seemed destined to dwell in a no-man’s land. Its controversial R-rating and inclusion of heavy profanity (unusual for a faith-based film) was likely to turn off many in the target Christian audience base, while the religious subject matter ran the risk of repelling a sizable portion of the mainstream audience. Nevertheless, the film was a modest success at the box office, earning $21 million against a $4 million budget. But it has seemingly found a second life on streaming. Within several days of its digital release, Father Stu climbed all the way to #1 on Netflix.

The raw authenticity of Father Stu, while possibly causing Christian viewers to feel uncomfortable, potentially also makes it more relatable to unbelievers who might typically be unwilling to see a faith-based film. For some, perhaps watching Stuart Long’s amazing faith journey is the start of their own.

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