Centered in a Biblical worldview, but requires parental guidance
|Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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With a clear grounding in the biblical call to break cycles of generational sin that so easily entangle, GENERATIONAL SINS is a redemptive—and ultimately hope-filled—drama that does not shy away from the difficult topics of alcoholism and domestic abuse that many families struggle with. And while family relationships—particularly father-son and brother-brother—take center stage in GENERATIONAL SINS, ultimately it is life transformation that comes from faith in God that wins the day.
Produced by Third Brother Films in tandem with SpenceTF Productions, GENERATIONAL SINS opens in theaters and video-on-demand (VOD) on October 6th, 2017. It is directed by Spencer T. Folmar, and written by Folmar and Dax Spanogle, who also stars as younger brother Will Caldwell. Other cast members include Daniel MacPherson as older brother Drew Caldwell; Leesa Folmar as the Caldwell brothers’ mom, Sarah; Mark McDowell as their estranged father Bill; Barrett Donner as Drew’s high-school sweetheart, Rachel Williams; and Tom Folmar as Pastor Thomas.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
We live in a fallen world in which the ravages of human sin and rebellion impact every area of life—particularly the family unit. Too often, however, Christians try to insulate ourselves from the realities of sin and retreat into our holy huddles—quickly forgetting that we, too, walked in darkness before we were saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
Here, GENERATIONAL SINS reminds us where we humans find ourselves before redemption in Christ—lost, abandoned, and ultimately without hope. Set in the context of Exodus 20:5—“I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”—GENERATIONAL SINS depicts a man caught up in the throes of third-generation sin. Yet thanks to some gentle encouragement along the way by his mother and a small-town pastor, he receives a sign of hope from God in his darkest hour and begins the process of healing and transformation—breaking the cycle of generational sin in his family line.
While some Christians may understandably not embrace some of the characters’ language and behaviors in GENERATIONAL SINS, these depictions are not gratuitous and serve to offer a realistic portrayal of the broken and hurting world that that we Christians are called to as ambassadors of Christ. In this sense, GENERATIONAL SINS helps prepare believers to more effectively engage with the world around us and share the Gospel truth that brings people out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light. And while many Christians are used to sanitized faith-driven films that gloss over the reality of the human condition, GENERATIONAL SINS serves to remind us in a very important way that “there but for the grace of God go I.”
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
Throughout GENERATIONAL SINS, characters and their relationships are presented realistically in the context of sometimes-messy human failings and sin. Primarily, this is a movie about family-of-origin struggles that reverberate throughout the lives of two brothers, Drew and Will Caldwell. While they are very different and do not have a particularly close relationship to begin with, over time they begin to understand one another and experience healing and transformation as the story line moves forward. Their mother, Sarah, appears to be a rather godly woman—but not without faults of her own—and there is a tender and well-acted scene between her and Drew on her deathbed in which she tells Drew she wants him to take Will to see their childhood hometown in Pennsylvania so that both can heal from the past and the experience peace that she has. Here, she gives Drew a cross—although at this point he is not particularly plugged into his faith.
In contrast to Drew, who is angry, emotionally shut down and in a great deal of emotional, psychic and spiritual pain, younger brother Will is a successful, pretentious, carefree ladies’ man brimming with self-confidence and arrogance. And whereas Drew has chosen to isolate himself from the rest of the family and search for the meaning of life, Will is the golden boy favorite of his stepfather, Stan, who is grooming Will to take over his successful business one day. As somewhat of a black sheep. Drew struggles to maintain emotional intimacy with others and is frozen in fear that he will one day become like his alcoholic and abusive father, Bill, who long ago lost his family and has been living in their hometown with no contact with his sons. It is Pastor Thomas, however, who reveals to Drew that Bill has become a Christian and experienced dramatic change from the monster he was in Drew’s childhood. Here, Pastor Thomas also shares that Bill, too, was abused by his father—Drew’s grandfather—in a cycle of generational sin that must be broken.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
Although GENERATIONAL SINS does not even remotely come close to the levels of vulgar language, gratuitous imagery and graphic violence commonly seen in secular movies today, it will nevertheless challenge some moviegoers who are accustomed to faith-based films that often present storylines that work hard to avoid, downplay or sanitize some of the difficult and gritty realities of sin in a fallen world. In this sense, GENERATIONAL SINS may go too far for some viewers—particularly with its occasional use of language not typically found in faith-driven movies. On the other hand, some viewers may be relieved to encounter a Christian movie that tackles some hard topics in a realistic way—pointing to the messiness of human sin and brokenness, but also offering a redemptive message of hope and healing through faith in Jesus.
Beyond the several instances of language that some may find objectionable, GENERATIONAL SINS also presents situations that involve flashbacks to an angry, alcoholic, abusive father, and a brother who is somewhat of a player with women—including a scene in which he parties with more than one women and appears to have a girlfriend who spends the night at this apartment. The brothers—whose relationship is contentious to begin with—are depicted drinking and smoking a lot, and Drew expresses concern that he, too, may become an alcoholic like his father. And there’s a bar room brawl scene in their hometown that involves both brothers and a guy named Nifty who picks a fight with Will for trying to pick up his girlfriend.
Throughout most of GENERATIONAL SINS, Drew is haunted by his dark past, and as events progress he expresses anger toward God for his situation—ultimately hitting rock bottom and seriously contemplating suicide. Indeed, it is the trip back to their hometown in a rural, economically depressed mining area of Pennsylvania that provides the setting for Drew and Will to confront the generational sins that plagues their family, work out their differences and move forward into a more hope-filled future.
Here, some viewers may question why the story takes Drew and Will on their road trip from Florida to Pennseylvania in the five days between their mother’s death and her funeral. And they may also question why the story line offers a happily-ever-after resolution after Drew’s dramatic and despondent reaction to their father’s death at his remote cabin in the woods. Despite these shortcomings, there is nevertheless a sense of satisfaction for the viewer when Drew does get his life together, reconnects with his faith, reconciles with Will, marries Rachel, and moves into a new and hope-filled season of life as the movie ends.
Family Viewing Suitability
At 90 minutes in length, GENERATIONAL SINS is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and alcohol abuse, and for some language and suggestive content. Given the use of some obscenities—including the F-word on one occasion—parents should take care in determining the maturity level of children before taking them to see GENERATIONAL SINS. For mature audiences, however, the realistic—but not overly gratuitous—use of strong language in the movie’s depiction of sin should serve as a reminder of God’s goodness and grace in delivering people from the ties that so easily bind. And it helps prepare Christians for the reality of the world we enter into as missionaries.
Overall, GENERATIONAL SINS is a solid movie that starts out strong in terms of the quality of writing and acting, but then begins to sputter. Despite this, the pacing of the story line builds toward a suspenseful moment when all seems lost but God comes through in a big way that builds faith for everyone involved. While it is unlikely that this film will do well by a traditional box-office metric, kudos go to the production team for making a realistic movie about real life struggles in a non-saccharine way.
While the topics covered in GENERATIONAL SINS are sometimes heavy, the film offers a great example of someone who experiences the grace of God-inspired transformation. In today’s cultural environment of entitlement and blame shifting, it is refreshing to see a character like Drew who apologizes to those he has wronged, assumes responsibility for the man he is and who he wants to become, and puts an end to the generational sin that threatens to destroy his family and future.