Jess (Kate Randall) and Cadon (Restin Burk)
Jess (Kate Randall) and Cadon (Restin Burk)

Not too long ago I received some flak from a promoter of a faith-based film that I gave a fairly negative review. As a fellow Christian, I want to be supportive of other believer’s projects, but as a reviewer, I want to critique art for what it is. He tried to reason with me saying that film’s production had a limited budget and that I shouldn’t expect a Christian film to be Oscar-worthy. In response, I told him that I believe in doing the best you can with what you got. The film he presented me was not the best it could be. The writing was poor. The acting was poor. The music was poor. The film meant well, but it wasn’t a well-made movie.

Contrast that experience to one I just had watching the film, My Son. It too featured actors who have never acted before and was put together on a shoe-string budget, but this film (and others like it) proves that low budget Christian films can be made well. Much can be done with a good story.

Grandma Sharri (Paige Easterling) comforts little Austin.
Grandma Sharri (Paige Easterling) comforts little Austin.

Produced by Retta Vision Motion Pictures (a ministry of Retta Baptist Church in Rendon, TX.) and FlyRock Media, My Son is unlike many Christian films before it. For one, it’s rated “R.” This is due to scenes of violence and drug use, but probably should have a rating a PG or PG-13. Most of the violence is off-screen and isn’t gratuitous.

Jess (Kate Randall) is a single mother doing her best to care for her young son Austin. She lives with new boyfriend, Cadon (Restin Burk) who is barely making ends meet for just himself let alone a family. Their questionable living arrangement causes concern for Jess’ parents James and Sharri Clarke (Chuck Kitchens and Paige Easterling) who fight for custody of Austin and win. Desperate to get their son back, Jess and Cadon go to extreme measures which lead to a shooting at a local church.

Two women flee the shooter.

My Son isn’t a perfect movie, but it is a good film. With some additional editing and perhaps a few reshoots, it has the potential of becoming a great one. The story was written by Michelle Dietrich, Melanie Gardner and Matt Ward and is surprisingly good. The authors shy away from trite, tidy dialogue. It features characters that are not perfect which is something that is much-needed in Christian films. Jess’ parents want nothing more than reconciliation with their daughter and to protect their grandson. Jess’ mother says, “I know that we are doing the right thing, but I’m not sure if it is the best thing.” However, it becomes obvious that she is to be part of the blame for the rift between her and her daughter. My Son is directed by Jarod O’ Flaherty whose cinematography is well done and the sets look very realistic.

Watch the trailer below:

On the downside, at times, the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a family drama, an action flick or a character study? As the film goes on, numerous side characters, storylines and plot holes are added. Because of this confusion, it runs about a half hour longer than it needs to. The film opens with a well-shot, but unnecessary flashback scene that loosely fits the main story line. Later on, the action scenes would be more thrilling if some of the extraneous scenes were cut out. As for the acting, there are few less-than- stellar performances, but those can be forgiven since the lead actors carry the movie.

What makes this film stand out among other faith-based films is that the ending doesn’t tie up everything in neat little bows. There is a salvation message presented, but it doesn’t feel forced as in some other flicks (however, the timing of the scene is a little odd) and the ending is more realistic than some would hope for. Perhaps the best line in the whole film is from a sweet prayer warrior of a lady who shouts at the gunman, “God is in control of this room – not you –and I’m not afraid of dying.” I love that lady.

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