“Utopia Central,” I said, answering my phone when my boss called me one day earlier this week.
Sounds serious. And you know what? I wasn’t kidding.
I really have felt like my office could be the HQ for all things Utopia for the past month or so. And I say the word Utopia in reference to the new film starring Robert Duvall, Melissa Leo and Lucas Black called Seven Days in Utopia which releases in theaters in select cities today.
You’ve probably seen advertisements for it on television by now, heard radio commercials or seen ads right here at Crosswalk.com, too.
Well, my doings with all things Utopia began early in August when I attended a special movie screening for church leaders and ministry folks. And even before that, I had started reading the book upon which the film is based: Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia.
A couple of weeks after I screened the film, I then had the opportunity to interview the book’s author and the film’s executive producer and screenwriter, Dr. David L. Cook. He’s a Peak Performance coach and has worked with a who’s who list of athletes, professional sports teams, Olympians and Fortune 500 companies.
That sounds a little intimidating, doesn’t it? And yet talking with David felt like having a conversation with my dad. He’s kind, gentle and a lover of Jesus. And it’s obvious he’s got a big heart and wants to make a difference in the lives of others with a story he says was not of his doing, but a “download” from God.
But that’s not all.
Earlier this week, I also interviewed the film’s director, Matthew Russell, as well as the two lead actors: Robert Duvall and Lucas Black. Each really believes in the core message of this film: that life isn’t about winning the game; it’s about how you approach it.
Told through the fictional story of an eccentric rancher (Duvall) and an aspiring golfer (Black) who’s just had a mid-tournament meltdown and is pretty much lost in life, Seven Days in Utopia is about people helping people. And it’s the relationships in life that matter—not the trophies we try to attain to line our earthly shelves.
So when the rancher meets up with the golfer in Utopia, Texas of all places (who knew there was a real-life Utopia, Texas anyway?) and makes him a deal to “spend seven days in Utopia, and you’ll have your game back,” interesting things start happening in this unlikely mentor-and-the-apprentice type of relationship.
Like cowboy poker. Piloting a small airplane. Fly-fishing while standing in a canoe. And even an art appreciation moment with a little paint and canvas, too. It seems a little crazy, but there’s a method to the rancher’s madness (he happens to be a former professional golfer himself, but doesn’t reveal that ‘til later on) and sure enough, he’s going to help the golfer find himself first. And then find his game.
Now I’m one who rarely recommends films as I believe that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” For art is subjective, is it not? So who am I to tell you what you should think is great or what should resonate with you?
But I will say this about this Utopia: it has been made with a lot of heart. And the message is compelling.
I think you also have to wonder why an Academy Award-winning actor (Duvall) who’s now 80 years old would make time to be in a movie like this. From my vantage point, I think it’s got to be the story. It’s simple, yet profound. And whether you’re someone who loves the game of golf or not (that would be me), there’s definitely something here of takeaway value for everyone.
Russell even commented that in many advance screenings that female viewers have ranked their experience watching the film even higher than that of men. That’s interesting, especially when you consider that the two leads are male and the film is set in the world of golf. (As in, the only other thing required to get your “man badge” might be an icy cold drink . . . ingredients being up to you, of course.)
And yet, as Russell relayed in our interview, even though Utopia is set in that world it doesn’t mean it’s only a golf movie. It’s about relationships. It’s about helping people get up when they’re down. It’s about pointing toward hope when others have lost their way.
That’s what I got out of Seven Days in Utopia here at “Utopia Central.” And if you choose to see it, maybe you will, too.
**Click here to read Crosswalk.com’s review of Seven Days in Utopia.
***If you’d like to hear me share more about Seven Days in Utopia and you live in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, then tune in today at approximately 5:40 p.m. E.T. to Tampa Bay’s Christian Talk Radio, WTBN AM 570 & 910, to the “Drive Time with Bill Bunkley” show.
Or you can always listen live online every Friday at www.bayword.com when we preview each weekend’s new movie releases.