Movie reflection: “Father Stu”

Note: Spoilers below.

Three years later, I finally come around to write another movie reflection. The pandemic was the main factor. But I now watch most movies over streaming services. It didn’t feel right writing about a movie seen from home.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2022, the Blue Hills Collaborative in Hyde Park in Boston organized a trip to the movie theater to watch “Father Stu.” I jumped on the discounted movie ticket and went with the 25 other people from the collaborative.

Usually with Christian movies, the previews match the genre. I found it weird that the movie theater gave previews for “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness,” “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” What audience did the movie theater expect?

The movie recounted the journey of Stu Long (Mark Wahlberg) from boxer to actor to Catholic priest. If you are sensitive to vulgar language, this movie might not be for you. The language portrayed the roughness and brokenness of Stu, his father Bill (Mel Gibson) and his mother Kathleen (Jacki Weaver). That brokenness allowed Stu to connect with other people’s struggles, highlighted to his talk to prisoners.

The belligerency within the family heightens as Stu steps toward God. The verbal jabs against God point to the parents’ anger over the death of Stu’s brother, Stephen, at a young age.

Meanwhile, Stu’s own sufferings bring him to God. After a motorcycle wreck, Stu lay on the street bleeding. He saw the Blessed Virgin Mary and asked how her son can ever love him. She said, “He died on the cross for you.” Stu later told Carmen, his girlfriend, that he had not felt so much love before. His debilitating illness in the seminary prompted him to pray more and depend more on God.

As Stu began to answer God’s call to the priesthood, he found resistance from his family and his girlfriend.

My counsel to young men discerning: Please, please tell your girlfriend sooner about you considering the seminary. Stu kept the whole matter to himself till he was set on his decision. His revealing shouldn’t be at a restaurant, where Carmen might assume that he would propose to her. Better to end the relationship sooner than string her along for a deeper heartache.

My counsel to young women dating: Please don’t use sex to entice a guy toward marriage. If the man gets sex from the woman before the ring, why would he bother marry her? Carmen initially did the right thing in deflecting Stu’s charms and advances. Her virtue, especially chastity, led Stu to Baptism and a better life. But when Stu was deep in thought about his future, Carmen succumbed to lust and had sex with him. The realization of her wrong hit her when Stu gave the news about the seminary.

Yet God desired more than Stu’s yes to him; he also sought the healing of the relationships in his family. Father Stu’s debilitating illness finally bring him together with his father through his care. The grace of priestly ordination and his preaching began to move his father’s heart at the end of the movie.

Overall, it was a powerful story of conversion and suffering. My one critique was that it was hard to hear the dialogue at times.

Watch Fr. Stu Long’s testimony below:

God bless.

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