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“The Song” Struggles to Stay on Pitch

The Song is the latest in a number of faith-based films that are not only trying to reach Christian audiences but also trying to appeal to those who never darken the doors of church buildings.  The film uses the story of a successful country music star as a rough analogy to the life of King Solomon and aims to teach lessons on faith, fidelity, and fame – I think.

The Song, which far exceeds the cinematography, acting, and production values of most Christian-produced movies, is exceptional in that it depicts sin in a realistic, graphic way that will make some believers squirm in their seats (for example, one character commits suicide, another gets on a bad drug trip and claws at his skin until it bleeds).  And I think it deserves credit for that – sin is messy, and when we try to sugarcoat it, it doesn’t resonate with real life.  As the story unfolds, it is very clear that a life of sin will take you to hell and back; and fame and fortune will prove to be “meaningless, meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The problem is that after we see all this mayhem and the film is over, we’re left with a big why.

I’m guessing that the movie is trying to teach us something, I just can’t figure out what it is.  If it’s trying to teach us how to build strong marriages, it misses the boat; because the only thing the film does is teach us how to ruin one.  Moreover, perhaps the greatest failure of the film is what it communicates to women in abusive, adulterous marriages: that is, your husband can mistreat you in a variety of ways over a long period of time, but if he suddenly apologizes to you, taking him back is the right thing to do (even when the sincerity of his apology is depicted as being somewhat questionable).  I mean, I’m all about healthy reconciliation; but what this movie gives us is a woman who gets verbally and emotionally knocked around, and in the end, we’re supposed to be deeply touched by an impulsive “Baby-I’m-sorry-I-love-you-baby” apology.

Speaking of repentance, it is entirely unclear what repentance even means in this film.  The main character’s wife complains that she can’t be with a man who doesn’t believe in something greater than himself.  And it looks like that “something” is probably supposed to be Jesus, but it’s not quite clear – based on what we see in the film, the guy would have done just as well to become a nice humanist.  It begs the question why believers can’t seem to figure out how to make movies that communicate the truth of coming to Jesus without either (a) doing the equivalent of an awkward, unnatural, cinematic altar call; or (b) making things so opaque that any theology in the film is on par with something you’d find at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

This isn’t the only twisted message about marriage either.  In an early scene in the film, a woman who’s having an affair gets pregnant, has an abortion, and after her husband finds out about her affair, he hangs himself.  Her lover, David, is thereafter devastated when his wife learns of the affair and drives away with their kids in the back seat of her car.  But then the movie depicts the two lovers getting married as a voiceover reads the scripture, “But the one who confesses and renounces sin finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13).  Life goes on, they have new kids, they dance on the deck of their home together – the old wife and old kids are apparently old news.  To be fair, I understand that The Song is trying to draw a parallel to the Old Testament story of King David’s act of adultery. But the problem is, in the case of both marriages depicted, The Song communicates that repentance means just starting over, when New Testament repentance actually calls us to make things right (Luke 19:1-10). That isn’t readily evident in either case.

Don’t get me wrong – this movie does have a lot of redemptive themes; and it’s particularly noteworthy how it works so many scripture verses into the script in a way that seems natural and artistic.  In fact, I heard that at one of the screenings, a young woman who isn’t a believer wanted to know where all the beautiful poetry came from.  Along those lines, some of the Scripture-inspired songs are actually quite good, and although I haven’t heard it, I’m sure the soundtrack is worth buying.

Unfortunately though, good music and Bible verses aren’t enough to rescue a movie that, although it has a lot of potential, sends some troubling and unhealthy messages about marriage.  And that’s why, in the end, I’m afraid The Song is a good idea that’s missing the moral backbone it needed to keep it from falling flat.

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5 Comments
  1. Charlie #

    I have not seen the film but I trust your assessment! First, there is always a price to pay – your own pain the pain of others. Dancing in celebration of the enjoyment of life in a newly unfettered relationship is appropriate as a symbol of healing and restoration at the hand of God’s mercy to the sinners. Yet pain never goes away and the film should have acknowledged this. The pain caused to the children and the former spouses should never be blissfully forgotten. The film might have shown a moment where the parent comes across a picture of the former family who then breaks down in tears.

    Second: There are always consequences – sadness. Relationships in a broken family might never be easy to deal with and there is always a sadness that comes on special occasions and holidays.

    Then, a second chance is not a free pass – faithfulness is always tested. The film could have had a scene where the man falls, by chance, into a tempting moment and the man makes a prompt about face out of the situation coming home to his wife with a deep embrace.

    Forth: The honorable reputation; the birthright so to speak, is diminished. For example, can a felon ever run for office? Likewise, is the office of a pastor or elder in a church opened to someone who once was unfaithful?

    Finally, the eternal moment when one faces judgment before the throne is a weight that is never completely lifted. Yes, salvation is granted, but will the reward be the same?

    I say all this because I have lived through some similarities. Yes, I have danced and have laughed deeply; for sure. Actually, many see the joy that emanates from my union to my new spouse. It is a God given mercy and grace – we still get complements from friends, brothers at church, and even from strangers in a store or restaurant.

    But, no one has seen the tears, and no one knows the sorrow, or the weight of the eternal that I still feel. I don’t think I would like to see a movie that depicts a one-sided, fairy tale happy ending to such a serious matter.

    Like

    September 13, 2014
  2. Allen #

    Joshua … having had the chance to see an advance screening of the film as well, I think your review misses the mark. So much so, I have to wonder if we saw the same film.

    This film very clearly has a redemptive message — one that’s in the face of a very difficult marital situation, yet makes it clear that the road to redemption won’t be easy. But I failed to see any ‘free passes’ given, other than the ones you and I received to see an advance screening of it.

    You seem to to be reading into this film (advocating abusive relationships?) things I don’t think are truly present. I don’t want to go into great detail here and risk spoiling what I think is one of the best faith-target films made in The Year of The Faith Film. But, suffice it to say, I think this film carries great potential to help couples steer clear of the troubles depicted by Jed and Rose.

    And to do that, while making a well acted, well written film with a strong soundtrack is no small advancement for the faith-target film genre.

    Like

    September 23, 2014
    • I’m glad you liked it. You certainly aren’t the only one. I appreciate the different perspectives, and I’m particularly interested in hearing the reaction from viewers who are not Christians.

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      Like

      September 24, 2014

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