The Heart of Man (M)
Rating: 4 / 5
I’ll be shocked if The Heart of Man doesn’t surprise you, as I believe it’s different from anything you might have seen in the cinema before.
Part documentary with some fascinating talking heads, and part imaginative story, this film will resonate with many people across Australia when it hits the screens from 20 June.
Its official description is ‘a cinematic retelling of the Prodigal Son story contrasted with the gritty and vulnerable true stories of people who’ve walked out of a moralist and behaviour-centric journey with God’. Its key message is that our brokenness is a bridge, not a barrier.
So what is it all about?
The film features several Christians who bravely face the camera and talk honestly about their struggles with sexuality—mostly in the context of pornography.
It is a no-holds-barred film, and it can be confronting at times. But it was impossible for me not to have huge admiration and sympathy for these people talking about their struggles, and of how God’s love led to healing and redemption—eventually.
Our protagonists are at pains to point out that this is no Christian faith quick fix, but a deeply personal and drawn-out journey over some years. Some of them go through the experience of losing their marriages due to pornography addiction, while another talks of her personal struggles due to hugely negative interactions with males and abuse for much of her life.
Running alongside these real-life stories is the re-creation of the Prodigal Son story in a confronting but compelling way.
We see two actors representing God the father and a human son, running into the forces of darkness and the harrowing journey the son undertakes before accepting that his father’s boundless forgiveness is waiting for him.
While the message of the film is that shame about any area of our lives prevents us from accepting God’s grace, the focus is on sexual difficulties and how faith can move mountains.
In The Heart of Man we witness our subjects eventually realising that the shame they felt at their addictions made them turn away from God, thinking that a judgmental God would reject them because of their behaviour.
But the film’s overriding message is that God is love and is always there in the darkness, walking beside us no matter what we have done.
Two of the participants are especially effective at communicating their message—William Paul Young, author of the faith-based book The Shack (which has its own movie), and Dr Dan Allender, professor of counselling and psychology, a Christian and specialist in trauma and abuse therapy. Their voices are central to the impact of this film.
This overtly Christian film bravely tackles an important 21st century challenge from a perspective of faith and redemption. It is an excellent resource for pastors as they assist those who seek their help for these deeply personal issues.
Bringing darkness into the light and showing the way to a hopeful future with God is an important achievement of The Heart of Man.
Highlight: The honesty of the participants on a challenging topic
Red flag: Sexual themes, language