Film: The Shack

  • Kristina Cooper

Octavia Spencer, Sam Worthington in scene from The Shack

Octavia Spencer, Sam Worthington in scene from The Shack

The Shack is based on a best selling book by William P Young, which amazingly for a Christian themed book was on the New York Times Best seller list for 70 weeks. It became a publishing phenomenon with devotees buying dozens of copies to give away. I myself received a copy from an enthusiastic friend. Published in 40 languages and selling 22 million copies, it was inevitable that one day it would become a film. And now it is.

The film, which is very well acted has a stellar cast who include Sam Worthington (the hero in Avatar) and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (the Help). The film tells the story of Mack (Worthington), a man with a troubled past of his own, whose eight year-old daughter is abducted and murdered. This tragedy shuts him down emotionally and causes further suffering in the family. Then one day when his family are away he is invited to meet with God in 'the Shack' where the bloodied dress of his daughter was found after her abduction. The rest of the film is about Mack's encounter and discussion with God on the nature of evil and forgiveness.

This is not as heavy as it might sound as God is portrayed an amiable middle aged black woman (Spencer) -and in another scene an elderly father figure (played by Native American actor Graham Green) and the Holy Spirit is a beautiful young oriental woman (Japanese pop star Sumire). Only Jesus is recognisable with his beard, working in his carpenter's shed ( Israeli actor, Avraham Aviv Alush). The locations are also beautiful as it was filmed in the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia. The film was a bit too long, however, for my taste and I found my attention flagging towards the end, particularly as I knew the ending.

I am sure the film will be enjoyed by those who loved the book, however, and the key characters looked exactly as I imagined them. It also could be a useful to show to church groups to stimulate discussion on heaven, hell and salvation and the way we see God. I suspect young people however, might struggle with the length so youth workers might need to extract highlights from it.

Despite it high production values and cast I think it will struggle to get a wider cinematic release in the UK because we are such a secular nation compared with the United States. Although the dilemna that Mack has to face is a universal one, the fact that he and his family are such a beautiful looking church going family means the film has a touch of Hallmark movies about it. This will make it hard for the general British public used to more gritty fare to identify with or take to, which is a shame.

Damaris, the ministry which seek to help churches to engage with film have as usual produced some material to accompany the film. See

See a trailer here:

Tags: Damaris, British Columbia, Cultus Lake, Cascade Mountains, Avraham Aviv Alush, Sumire, Graham Green, Octavia Spencer , William P Young, Sam Worthington, Avatar,

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