The first thing I found most amazing about this mostly religious movie is how much the critics on Rotten Tomatoes disliked it, at only an 18% approval, even though the audience ranking was 88%. It is true there are things to dislike about this film but it is very far from a bad one, regardless of your religious beliefs. As anyone would know from the trailer of “The Shack” you know it is about the abduction of a very adorable young girl and the extraordinary pain her father goes through after she is abducted. Of all the things that can go wrong with raising a child, having them taken from you by some disgusting animal and then either never found or killed are at the very top of the list. One wonders how anyone could ever hold a job or even sleep again, after going through a horrible event like losing a child through an abduction by a known child kidnapper. Another movie or documentary related to this issue could be stories about people who have gone through a nightmare like this and somehow found a way to survive. Most of us would never recover from something like this, I know I wouldn’t. Under these extreme circumstances, any chance of a return to any kind of a normal life would be impossible.
The process of casting this movie must have been a difficult one because the producers found a young girl played by Amélie Eve to play the abducted child in this film, and she is far and away the cutest and most adorable child I have ever seen in any movie. Her childlike cuteness makes watching this movie that much more agonizing both before the abduction happens and afterward when her father, mother and older brother and sister try to go on with their lives without her. With a child as special as this one, any parent would be constantly keeping a watchful eye, but the horror with a life reality like this is that you cannot always be aware of where your child is 100% of the time and as is depicted in this movie, the father’s temporary distraction was more than justified.
The recent great movie “Manchester By the Sea” is another movie about the overwhelming grief over the loss of a child but the difference with this film is that it tries to rationalize the grief and anger at God by using 3 religious muses who visit with the father of the young girl, Mack Phillips, played by Sam Worthington at a remote shack in the woods where the young girl’s dress was found after she was taken. The 3 muses are played well by Octavia Spencer,
Avraham Aviv Alush and Sumire Matsubara, but the problem with their presence in this film and what they say to the grieving father in the shack is that their answers to his questions about God and evil and why things are they way they are in the world, come off more like riddles out of a fortune cookie than anything that makes any real sense. Perhaps the screenwriter wanted people to come up with own conclusions to questions that really have no real answer that could ever satisfy anyone who has gone through grief and loss to this degree. For me what I took from all their comments about God and real life is, “if God is in charge of all the good things in the world, what makes any of us believe that he would have any control over all the evil in the world”.
A huge flaw in this movie was at the beginning where Mack Phillips is born into a family with an alcoholic father and there is a huge event that happens after several scenes of extreme abuse of his father towards him and his mother. This major event is then never discussed or referenced ever again for the entire remainder of this film, that also includes all of the conversations with the 3 muses as Mack tries desperately to get past his anger towards God and his grief. This is very obviously a gigantic flaw in this movie and I am at a loss that this large of a glaring omission could have been left out of this film. Despite this flaw, I thought this movie was very well done and I do recommend it.