Rating: 4.5 / 5
Doing justice to the story of a community of Karen (an ethnic Burmese group) refugees who have fled the civil war in Burma (Myanmar) is no easy feat, but in All Saints we see the real-life scenario portrayed triumphantly as a small-town priest welcomes them into his church.
Starring John Corbett as former salesman-cum-pastor Michael Spurlock, he has been appointed to the dwindling church of All Saints in Smyrna, Tennessee. Spurlock has two simple tasks: sell the building to developers, and encourage its ageing population to move to the mega-church down the road.
It sounds easy enough, but when a group of refugees comes to his doorstep, he must determine what he values more: obeying his oath to his superiors, or following the call of God who has (literally) asked him to save the church to provide for these people.
All Saints is evocative, heart-warming and humorous. The heavy storyline is balanced with nuanced humour and real-life emotion, celebrating the resilience and determination of the Karen community (many who play themselves on screen) as they begin farming on the church grounds to start a new life.
The fact that it was actually filmed on location makes this all the more poignant, and it’s impossible not to be moved as we see a decrepit congregation brought to life in the most unexpected way.
In this film, Corbett is the quintessential ‘good guy’ we have come to love and plays his role as father, husband and rogue minister with ease. Blade star Nelson Lee is equally as vital, portraying Ye Win, the key caregiver and interpreter of the Karen community, with grace and sincerity.
Working well with onscreen wife Cara Buono, Corbett’s ability to authentically depict a devout man wrestling with his faith, pride and the personal cost of his actions is excellent.
The movie finds its true heart when this vulnerability collides with the raw emotion of the Karen and their stories.
Don’t go into this movie expecting a clichéd happy ending—while All Saints bears all the marks of a faith-based family flick, the challenges and unexpected twists the congregation face make us emotionally invested in the outcome of everyone involved.
On a personal level, All Saints encourages us to ask God the tough questions about our disappointment and pain. In a more practical way, it challenges us to welcome immigrants into our lives with open arms and generous hearts.
As Spurlock says in the film, “We don’t choose who God sends to our doors”—and we all have a role to play in welcoming refugees to our shores. Put simply, this film is essential viewing in the midst of the world refugee crisis.
Highlight: The scenes featuring the Karen refugees
Red flag: One instance of mild violence, adult themes