'Walk the Line'

Nominee: Best Spiritual Film of 2005

 

"Walk the Line" is the story of a sinner saved by grace (in the form of June Carter!). For some religious moviegoers, this may feel like a watering down of the gospel that fueled so much of Johnny Cash's art. But it is a film about paradoxes, about believing one thing but doing another. For most of the movie, Cash crosses the line, falling off the wagon and into the arms of addiction. He is his own worst enemy. That may not strike viewers as eminently spiritual. Yet, isn't the battle to choose wisely, to carry through on our convictions, the line we all walk every single day?



"Walk the Line" is about being haunted. Cash lives with guilt, blaming himself for things he didn't do. It demonstrates how the withholding of love, of compliments, can undo even the most acclaimed artists. Johnny Cash lived like a man condemned, a killer on the run. He feels more at home inside Folsom Prison than en-route to church.

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While Joaquin Phoenix captures the rock side of Cash's country roots, Reese Witherspoon anchors the film as June Carter. Drawing upon her Tennessee roots, she gives this Hollywood biopic an authentic Southern voice. June and the Carter family accompany Cash through his dark night of kicking his drug habit. Her parents demonstrate their love with shotguns scaring away Johnny's dealers. June is the spark plug that energizes every sequence and the songwriter who encapsulates the film's central tension. Johnny and June both fall into "a burning ring of fire" and desire. Their love for each other ultimately woos and wins them over. Like the love of God, the fire blazes brightly, eternally, but it never consumes them. It just burns, burns, burns.

--By Craig Detweiler

 

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