After a year filled with strong Christian films (Same Kind of Different As Me, A Question of Faith, All Saints, The Case for Christ, Gavin Stone, more), Let There Be Light is a disappointing return to the mundane craftsmanship viewers have come to associate with faith-based movies. Any spiritual affirmation this film delivers is immediately overshadowed by its turbulent storytelling. 1 out of 5.
Dr. Sol Harkens (Kevin Sorbo) is a renowned atheist known for his charismatic town-hall debates and an edgy new book titled, Aborting God. A hard-drinking playboy who dates a revolving door of Russian models, Sol’s life is changed forever when a sudden car accident leaves him clinically dead for four minutes. While caught between this life and the next, Sol has a vision of his dead son, who urges him to return to Earth with a message, "Let There Be Light." This miraculous event sparks a spiritual awakening in Sol. He publicly recants his former views as an atheist, reconciles with his ex-wife (Sam Sorbo), and strives to become a better father to his estranged children (Shane Sorbo and Braeden Sorbo).
Just when life appears to be changing for the better, Sol is hit by another devastating tragedy. Will his fledgling faith be enough to see him through? And how will God’s message of hope pierce through the darkness surrounding this world?
Let There Be Light does have a few moments of genuine quality. The spiritual meeting between Sol and his deceased son might be a little tacky, but it still manages to tug on the heartstrings. Sam Sorbo delivers a decent performance when she's not being used to spout exposition, and for a pair of novice actors the Sorbo boys do an adequate job in their roles. One can at least admit the Sorbos work well together on screen.
Unfortunately, family chemistry isn't enough to rescue this film from a total avalanche of problems. Chief among these is a severe lack of nuance. Before his conversion, Sol is an obnoxious caricature of what apparently passes for an atheist: he's smug, angry, cruel, eager to persecute Christians, and happily exploits the death of his son for personal gain. When his eldest son asks for permission to join a relief trip to Haiti, Sol's only response is to chortle like a cartoon villain. This portrayal of nonbelievers is so unbelievably skewed it borders on ludicrous. Adding to the trouble is Kevin Sorbo's performance, which is completely over-the-top and designed to confirm every terrible stereotype Christians have about people outside the church.
The rest of the characters are no better. Sol’s friends are shallow, elitist snobs, but then again the writing doesn't allow them to be much else. When people on screen aren't rattling off inane exposition, they're saddled with stilted dialogue and unnatural reactions to grave situations. There is so much more to go into (not the least being some shameless product placement) but this review simply doesn't have enough space.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Let There Be Light is a Christian movie and features a substantial amount of gospel content, but much of it gets ruined by the delivery. The result is similar to Crosswalk's Debbie Holloway's concerns over God's Not Dead. The film does not accomplish its goal through clever storytelling, well-rounded characters, or honest conversations about faith. Rather, it hands out the message of Christ in a canned scene between Sol and his ex-wife's pastor. With so many tiresome tropes and clichés filling up the movie's runtime, even themes of love, marriage, and family become hard to digest. The one exception is a scene where Sam Sorbo expands on the nature of prayer and death with her two sons, but this too is tainted by the aforementioned stilted dialogue. Unless you are already a firmly devout Christian, Let There Be Light does little to effectively expound upon the gospel.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material including alcohol and drugs.
- Language/Profanity: Mostly clean with a few minor curses like “bloody” or “crap”.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Sol dates a Russian model who talks about wearing bikinis; his ex-wife offers to “hold him while he sleeps” but nothing more; a man wonders if an attractive woman has an equally attractive cousin; a woman mistakes the initials for "Let There Be Light" for "Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, and… ?"; a husband and wife remarry.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Sol accidentally crashes his car while drunk; Sol has a panic attack onstage; a few scenes of Sol and family in the hospital; a character peacefully passes away.
Drugs/Alcohol: Sol is an alcoholic and frequently gets drunk on a variety of beverages; champagne is served at a party; Sol takes prescription drugs; talk of smoking marijuana; talk of taking speed.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Devout Christians looking to be affirmed in their faith.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Small children; atheists; Christians who prefer more nuanced faith-based movies; anyone outside the Church; people who get restless during slow movies; writers; film connoisseurs.
Let There Be Light, directed by Kevin Sorbo, opens in theaters October 27, 2017. It runs 100 minutes and stars Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo, Daniel Roebuck, Donielle Artese, Shane Sorbo and Braeden Sorbo. Watch the trailer for Let There Be Light here.
Ryan Duncan is Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: October 27, 2017
Image courtesy: ©WildfireFilms