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Movie Review: The Shack

After reading Christian reviews, I refused to see “The Shack” when it first came out. Last night, while I was watching videos on YouTube, my husband found it and decided he wanted to watch it. Without meaning to, I got drawn into the story and ended up turning off my computer and joining him.

Please note that there will be spoilers. There is nothing revelational or surprising about the story, so I don’t believe I’ll be spoiling anything honestly. There’s no twist ending or anything like that. But I thought I should throw a warning out there anyway.

the shack

Plot

The main character (Mac) is a farm boy and he and his mom are abused by his father, who is a deacon in his church (and also an alcoholic). His only refuge is with a friendly African American woman who lives nearby and bakes cookies. It’s the only place he finds peace. His mom leaves them. Later he poisons his father, though it doesn’t show if his father died or not.

Later he gets married to Nan and they have three children, one boy, and two girls. They go to church and his wife is religious, but Mac is not.

The family goes on a camping trip with a bunch of other families. While the parents are on the lake with the two older children, the youngest girl goes missing. They search everywhere and the police are called, but come to find out there is a man who has abducted five other young girls and they believe he took Mac’s daughter too.

They find the girl’s dress and patches of blood in a shack (The Shack from the title). They never find the man nor the daughter’s body. The family holds a funeral with an empty casket. The mom tries to hold the family together. The dad withdraws into himself and shuts down due to his own guilt that he wasn’t there to protect his girl. His other son and daughter withdraw from him as well. The oldest daughter is also guilty because she distracted everyone by standing on the boat in the lake, and capsized everyone into the water which took their attention off the youngest daughter.

In the winter, Mac finds a letter in his mailbox asking him to come to the shack and is signed “Papa” which is the name his wife calls God. After a lot of debate in himself, he returns to the shack (with a gun) where his daughter was probably murdered, thinking that maybe the murderer sent the note. Instead, he doesn’t find anyone. He rages by throwing things around, screaming, punching the walls, etc. Normal behavior honestly, given all the anger he has pent up. He tries to commit suicide but is distracted by a deer walking by. He finally gives up and decides to go home.

On his way back to the truck, he is greeted by an Arabian-looking man who invites Mac to follow him. Mac reluctantly (yet curiously) agrees and, although the setting was in the middle of winter with deep snow in the forest, the man leads him into what looks like spring. They go to a cabin in the woods and there Mac meets Papa (God) in the form of the same African American woman who comforted him as a child, Jesus (the Arabian man – who looks a lot like I would imagine Jesus to look honestly), and Sarayu, and Asian woman playing the role of the Holy Spirit.

I won’t go much more into the story in case you decide to watch it for yourself. But the point of the plot is for Mac to learn to forgive and let go of his anger and hatred toward his past and toward God for the death of his daughter.

the shack

Review

I was actually really inspired by the movie. If you watch it from the beginning, the fact that God appears as a female African American woman makes a lot of sense. Mac didn’t have good experiences with men, especially fathers, and wouldn’t have reacted well if God had appeared in a male form. Instead, God, being all-knowing, knew that that woman would comfort Mac and that he would trust her. Like the angels in the Bible, God could appear in any form He chose.

Even the Holy Spirit being in human form honestly makes sense if you watch it. She is very comforting, she knows exactly what he is thinking and feeling, and he can talk to her.

I’m not sure why people, especially Christians, were so upset about this movie. It wasn’t a literal interpretation of the Bible, nor was it meant to be. Everything that happens is going on inside Mac’s own mind. He sees them the way he needs to see them. If he saw God as all-powerful, glowing, sitting on His golden throne up in heaven, it wouldn’t have connected with him. He would have been even angrier because it merely reinforced that God is all-powerful, yet He let his daughter die a horrible death. Instead, the woman that he speaks to is more comforting, someone he can relate to, the very reason God sent Jesus to Earth. And, of course, Mac had a terrible earthly father, so talking to his Heavenly Father wouldn’t have helped him.

What I enjoyed about this movie was that it was very down-to-earth and reminded me of how much God does love us and is involved in our lives. It reinforced what God has been saying to me a lot lately, that I need to just trust Him and stop trying to do things on my own. There’s a lot of hard-hitting truths in this movie that are pretty convicting, and I’m glad. We all need to be convicted sometimes.

The ending was pretty happy. No, the daughter didn’t come home safe and sound, but life went on. It was a realistic, yet still joyful, ending and I was pleased with it. The acting was great and I thought the story, though a simple one, was powerful.

The only thing I disagreed with was when the female Papa and Mac were discussing God’s wrath. The female Papa basically said she didn’t know what Mac was talking about. Of course, if you read the Old Testament, you know all about God’s wrath and God doesn’t change. I believe He still brings down wrath on people and countries today when they are completely turned against Him. However, I also see the point they were trying to make. Not every bad thing that happens is because God did it. Most of the bad stuff in life is just sin and the consequences of sin. Like Mac’s daughter dying. The man who killed her lived in sin. He chose to make bad choices and hurt others, just as his abusive father chose to hurt him and helped turn him into a pedophile and serial killer. God didn’t make that bad stuff happen – it was all sin and human choice.

Other than that part, I thought everything was pretty Biblically accurate. Who cares how God was portrayed? They didn’t do it in a rude or vulgar way. God wasn’t some sexy model walking around in a bikini or something. I already explained why that particular woman was chosen for Mac’s brain. I think people made too big a deal out of it, as we normally do.

I think the message was great and that Christians should rent it and watch it with an open mind. People dealing with anger and unforgiveness really need to see it because it may help them learn to forgive and let go.

Overall, I highly recommend this movie, despite what critics say. It was a great movie, clean, well-acted, with a powerful message.

Please let me know what you think of this movie in the comments below (even if you disagree – no judgment here)!

I love all you guys!

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