Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” – II Corinthians 3:3
Serving as the closing statement in Letters to God, a faith based motion picture releasing on DVD today, the aforementioned scripture passage from the New Testament does a credible job in summing up the true story of a terminally ill boy.
Here is the premise – a little boy with brain cancer shares his thoughts, dreams, and concerns in letters that he writes to God. Subsequently, the troubled mail man who is tasked with ‘delivering’ these letters eventually turns his life around due to the unflinching Christian witness of the boy.
Jeffrey Johnson (Burn Notice, Criminal Minds) plays Brady, the affable but down-on-his-luck mail man who is assigned the route where the mysterious “letters to God” appear faithfully in a mailbox. They are being sent by a young boy named Tyler (Tanner Maguire). Brady ends up befriending the terminally ill boy and his mother (Robyn Lively). Strangely, he finds himself spending more and more time around them and soon begins to sense a change in his life from reading the letters that Tyler writes.
While this movie is certainly a triumph of life over death it struggles in its rather narrow story arc. Without any real twists or turns, viewers pretty much know the outcome as soon as the skeptical, alcoholic mail man takes on his new route. However, viewers will be delighted to find out that powerful evangelism can take place in the simplest of circumstances.
Providing a sense of comic relief in the sometimes heavy-handed drama is Tyler’s fiesty best friend, the tomboyish Samantha (Bailee Madison). Equally amusing is her gruff, curmudgeonly grandfather, Cornelius Perryfield, played by Hollywood veteran Ralph Waite (Pa, The Waltons).
David Nixon, who served many roles in the making of landmark Christian movies Facing the Giants and Fireproof, including assistant director, moves into the director’s role for Letters to God. While his intentions are good, his efforts to revive a rather pedestrian script fall flat.
The Christian community will be delighted with this movie as there are several overt references to faith and living your life for God. In one highly emotional scene between Tyler and Mr. Perryfield, the octogenarian says, “You have been handpicked by God for a role of a lifetime.” In another, Mr. Perryfield quips, “God is truth and it is your job to point them to it.”
The DVD’s extra features are worth taking a look at for several reasons. In the behind the scenes featurette, several of the movie’s key pesonnel including Nixon and co-director/writer Patrick Doughtie share their vision for moviemaking — that it should be about finding projects that feature people triumphing over adversity. In addition, while the commentary section with Nixon and Doughtie sometimes falls into formulaic patterns it is refreshing to hear them share about the film’s core elements — faith, hope, and love. The theatrical trailer is also included.
It is important to note that this movie does not end with the closing credits. Perhaps the main objective of Letters to God is for viewers to start a dialogue about cancer, God, and Christianity in their lives. Conversely, the movie’s Web site provides tools for individuals to begin a cancer ministry in their church.
Film critics will undoubtedly say Letters to God doesn’t match up to other movies in its genre; its acting is bland and lifeless, and it plays out like a bad Hallmark movie. While some of these criticisms are valid, I was left with one underlying question: Will this movie be a life-changing experience for many who attend? My answer is yes.
Writing a letter to God in the movie was like praying to God in real life. You can also pray to God if you have a relationship with Him.