Review by Montgomery Loehlein April 27, 2022
Father Stu (Christian Movie Review)￼
Final Verdict: An adult Christian movie that delivers a surprisingly good gospel message with no sugar coating.
About The Film
The R-rated Christian movie. Is it an oxymoron? Well, not exactly. For over 15 years Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was the highest grossing R-rated movie in worldwide box office history, and it remains the highest earning R-rated film in the U.S. ever. The market is niche, but it is there. Father Stu pushes the envelope a bit further though. Christians have a fairly high tolerance for depictions of violence, especially if it is meant to depict real historical events. But what about real swearing, drinking, and talk of sex? Can we handle it? Should we?
Father Stu tells the true story of Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg), a boxer from small town America who moves to California to peruse an acting career. To make ends meet he gets a job at a grocery store meat counter. One day at work his eye catches Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a young and devout Catholic. Stu is infatuated, and in his pursuit of Carmen he begins to go to her church. He doesn’t fit in, but most of the parish is welcoming. He struggles with alcohol, and a tense relationship with his estranged father (Mel Gibson). Gradually though, Stu begins to show actual faith, and gives up his courting of Carmen in order to peruse the priesthood. He meets a few big challenges, but those sufferings strengthen him. While Stu’s gruff exterior doesn’t completely smooth out, his heart is changed, and he begins to infect others with his faith.
One reason Christian movies are often not great is because they are lower budgeted and don’t have professional Hollywood direction. Father Stu is certainly better done than most of the DVDs you will find at your old local Christian bookstore. The acting is quite good. Mark Wahlberg really carries the film. Mel Gibson is perfectly cast. However, I still don’t think this movie has great direction. At times the cinematography was too shaky and up close. The needle drop soundtrack also got kind of annoying.
This movie won’t be for everyone. I liked it. But I understand that other Christians will not be able to get past the “content.” Just remember that life is messy, and people are flawed. God in His grace saves colorful characters sometimes. Many people are crude, and their sanctification is slow. We all need to have patience with each other, just as God has been patient with us.
On the Surface
Profanity: Heavy profanity, including frequent F-bombs.
Sexuality: Sex is discussed occasionally. Sex between an unmarried man and woman is suggested, but the scene cuts away before clothes come off. That event is also addressed later as a sin.
Violence: The man character is boxer, so there are several fighting scenes. The opening fight is a bit bloody. A car accident is also depicted, though it is not gory.
Substance: Alcoholism is a factor in the story and depicted several times. Smoking is also shown frequently.
Beneath the Surface
Engage the Film
Some Protestant viewers might be turned off from this film due to its overt Roman Catholicism. We see the “sacrament” of confession, hear prayers to Mary, and the celibacy of the priesthood plays a major role in the plot. This should be no surprise though, as Wahlberg and Gibson both vocal practicing Catholics themselves. It is also based on a true story of a Catholic priest. Still, discernment is needed when judging the specifics of this movie’s theology.
No Prosperity Gospel
This movie has a fairly solid understanding of the gospel. Here are a couple quotes that stood out to me:
“If God is willing to forgive you and me, I’ve got to be willing to forgive others.”
“We shouldn’t pray for an easy life but the strength to endure a difficult one.”
In Father Stu, we see a man go from reprobate to saint. He repents, confesses Christ, and grows. Yet, his own suffering increases.
One thing that seems to happen a lot in typical faith-based movies is success. Are you a Christian who is faithful? Then your marriage will be strengthened, your illness will be healed, your court case and even your football game will be won! This is essentially a soft prosperity gospel. It pursues faith as a means of getting what we want in this life. Father Stu doesn’t do that. He is faithful because he wants to be obedient. He obeys, and yet still suffers greatly. God doesn’t fix all of his problems. In fact, it seems like his life gets harder after he converts. But he perseveres joyfully.
“My suffering is a gift from God. In this life, no matter how long it lasts, it’s a momentary affliction preparing us for eternal glory.”
In this, Father Stu agrees with Apostle Paul:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).”