A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)
FILM SYNOPSIS: A man who falls into homelessness
and despaire finds a way out by conversing with God.
I’m always on the lookout for films with spiritual and/or
religious themes. It’s hard to find them, but occasionally
they pop up. So when I heard about a new film called Conversations
with God, based on the popular series of books by Neale Donald
Walsch. I checked it out. Unfortunately, the film is a disappointment.
First off, I must admit that I have not read any of Walsch’s
books, so I am coming at this film with a blank slate. I may have
been better prepared if I had been more familiar with the material.
film tells the story of Neale Donald Walsch (Henry Czerny), author
of the books. As the film opens, Neale is speaking to an enthusiastic
crowd in Baltimore in 1995. Even though Neale gets a couple of
tough questions, he handles them with ease and receives a standing
ovation. The film then flashes back five years to Neale’s
home city of Portland, Oregon, and the horrifying auto accident
that resulted in a broken neck for Neale. Neale begins a downward
spiral, resulting in a loss of everything. He ends up homeless,
living in a tent, scavenging in dumpsters for food.
Eventually, Neale lands a part time job at a radio station. Just
as he begins to get on his feet, and is able to rent a house,
the station closes down, leaving him unemployed and on the brink
of despair. Then one night, God begins to speak to him. Neale
writes the stories of his “conversations” with God,
which are published in the series of enormously popular books.
of the problems with the film is that God’s words to Neale
are pretty dull. I would hope that God had something more inspiring
or prophetic to say than the bland voice Neale hears. The conversations
are actually monologues, as if God was dictating directly to Neale.
These monologues fly in the face of any contemporary understanding
of revelation. God speaks directly to people who can take copious
notes and then publish them. It’s a strict literal approach.
Secondly, the God of this film bears no relationship to the Judeo-Christian
revelation. Furthermore, he seems to have no connection with any
of the world’s great religious traditions. This God just
comes across as a friendly, disembodied voice.
Finally, the tone of the film is self-congratulatory. True, it
chronicles Neale’s journey into homelessness. However, from
the opening scene, we know that he will transcend his troubles
to become a spiritual guru, moving from speaking engagement to
book signing, being a really nice guy who changes people’s
lives. This might make some sense if there was any indication
that he was saying something profound. Unfortunately, what we
hear is “new age theology light.” On the evidence
of this movie, I saw nothing that would change lives, or inspire
anyone. I hope the books were better than the movie.
Tom Condon, OP