Faith-based films may have noble intentions, but they can be stiff in places where it matters most.
A clunky laugh line here. An ill-advised supporting turn there.
Not “Let There Be Light.” Director/star Kevin Sorbo’s film features a Christian redemption much like its predecessors.
So what’s different? This is a family affair. The actor’s wife, Sam Sorbo, co-wrote the script and stars as her husband’s on-screen wife. Their sons play the couple’s kids.
Together, they do more than suggest a real family in crisis. They bring a warmth to the narrative that’s both loose-limbed and true.
Kevin Sorbo stars as Dr. Sol Harkens, a loud and proud atheist making a killing by crushing Christ. He bulldozes a man of faith in a critical early scene, using a personal tragedy to deliver the KO. Sol’s son died of cancer years earlier. What kind of a God does that to a perfect little boy, he asks.
Atheism pays the rent, but it also drives a wedge between Sol and his ex wife Katy (Sam Sorbo) and their teen sons (Shane and Braeden Sorbo).
He doesn’t care. The money is good and booze helps ease the pain of his loss. It also nearly kills him.
He leaves a book party after downing too many drinks and drives his car off the side of the road. He’s declared clinically dead for four minutes, just long enough for him to have a vision of his departed son telling him something urgent.
When Sol recovers, he’s not sure he can resume his God-bashing ways. Didn’t he just get a glimpse of the Afterlife?
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 20, 2017
It’s noble for any film today to name check ISIS and the atrocities they commit. “Light” opens with a series of news clips detailing major terror attacks from the last few years. Yet the connection between Sol’s crisis and radical Islam isn’t fully integrated into the tale. The story here is so personal, so intimate, it’s hard to plug it into that global menace.
And one cameo, while handled delicately, unnecessarily interrupts a critical moment in the film.
Yet for every hiccup “Light” comes back with a bold, beating heartbeat. Blame Sam Sorbo. She’s outstanding as Katy, a woman refusing to give up on her family. If “Light” had came from the studio system her role might have been negligible.
She would be The Wife, standing by her man in the most generic way possible.
Katy is the film’s anchor, and Sam Sorbo delivers a truthful turn that matures as the third act unfolds.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a producer on the film, appears as himself late in the movie. His presence might drive secular audiences crazy, but he captures the film’s inspirational message.
Screenwriters Dan Gordon and Sam Sorbo keep finding tiny moments that make the narrative pop. Some of their choices sound awful on paper, like making the Harken’s pastor a former wiseguy. Michael Franzese’s quiet intensity as Pastor Vinny flips the script all the same.
The fim’s delayed courtship is another triumph. Sweet and satisfying, the subplot shames Hollywood which all but gave up on making meaningful rom-coms.
Best of all? The movie is fully aware of how children matter when it comes to middle-age romance. The Sorbo teens deliver some well-earned laughs as the couple’s “chaperones” without succumbing to cutesy kid banter.
Yes, “Light” is unabashed in its purpose and that third act features a twist that feels like too much initially. Yet the story rolls on, with a delicacy that speaks well of Sorbo’s directorial chops. And Sam Sorbo shares a tiny sermon on a parent’s eternal love that might be the year’s most Kleenex clutching moment.
HiT or Miss: Screen veteran Kevin Sorbo makes an impressive directorial debut with “Let There Be Light,” but he had more than a little help from his family.