Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

“Sometime the hero is on the sideline.” So reads the tag line for Abel’s Fieldthe new faith-themed from Covenant Road Entertainment and Sony Pictures now available on DVD via Walmart and other outlets. There are actually two heroes at the center of the film — both of whom live on the edge.

Teenager Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis) has to grow up fast. His mother has died and his father has abandoned his family, leaving him Seth alone to raise his younger twin sisters in an out-of-the-way Texas town. Seth has a strained relationship with his older brother who lives nearby but who displays little interest in helping him and his younger sibs. With no one to help him, he struggles to earn enough (as a mechanic) to keep what’s left of his family together.

Adding to his woes is bullying from members of the school’s football team — which leads to a fight that results in punishment for the innocent Seth. That punishment involves after-school work detail that has him helping enigmatic temporary grounds keeper Abel Adamson (Kevin Sorbo) keep the school football field in game-ready condition. The pair of outsiders soon form a special friendship in which Abel takes Seth under his wing and teaches him some valuable lessons about life –while keeping the details of his own past life carefully hidden. Things become complicated when the school decides to take on Abel full time (spurring a background check) and Seth, desperate for cash to meet his mortgage payment, becomes involved in a plan to steal thousands of dollars from the school treasury.

The story moves forward toward an ironic twist in which Seth finally learns the truth about his mentor’s mysterious past.

From the opening scenes depicting Seth’s tender and believable relationship with his young sisters, to his budding romantic relationship with that star football player’s former girl to, especially, his deepening friendship with Abel, director Gordie Haakstad manages to convey truths about life in a very natural and believable way. There are also some nice touches of humor along the way — particularly when Abel is roped into babysitting while Seth goes out on a rare date.

Kevin Sorbo, a busy film actor who TV audiences still fondly remember as Hercules and as Captain Dylan Hunt on Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, portrays Abel as both a gentle and wise man, yet one who is seething with a hidden anger that is volatile enough scare the crap out Seth when it’s suddenly and explosively revealed.  It’s a nice layered performance that is really interesting to watch. For his part, Samuel Davis reminds me of a young Patrick Swayze. He conveys a vulnerability and decency that is truly appealing. I think we’ll be seeing a lot from him in the future.

Together Sorbo and Davis have a genuine chemistry that helps the already strong script by Aron Flasher (based on an idea from producer Tore Knos) achieve a level of believability that is reminiscent of Tender Mercies,  the 1983 Robert Duvall classic (one of my all-time favorites) that was also set in Texas and which also dealt with the universal theme of redemption.

Abel’s Field is recommended.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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