4 Stars - Powerful
It is difficult to develop a story of complex characters dealing with life’s most difficult issues of disabilities and death in a short film of only 24 minutes, let alone reach into these characters’ souls and explore their questions and doubts about God. But Tim Hoover’s creative use of symbols and sorrows weave together a powerful presentation of “The Divine.”
The central theme of the film revolves around the metamorphous experience of butterflies. Seeing the beauty of their winged stage of life, it is easy to forget that they once inched along on the ground in a bulbous caterpillar state. Unable to barely lift it’s head above the ground, the caterpillar could easily cry out to its Creator and struggle to accept its life. In this stage of life, it would be understandable if such a creature would doubt there even is a Creator, and if such belief were to become possible, then questions of the Creator’s love would be unbearable.
This is the spiritual condition of James (Kris Johnson), an 18 year old boy whose facial deformity has caused him embarrassment and ridicule. However, the one person who accepts him and loves him unconditionally is his mother, Sally (Linda Burden-Williams). This supportive love has become both a source of strength, in teaching him to love the beauty of the world symbolized by the butterflies, as well as a burden, as he crawls through life carrying her hopes on his back.
This can be the problem with accepting another’s love. At first when we receive someone’s love, it is like the ‘wind beneath our wings.’ But when the wings never fully materialize, and we don’t feel as though we are worthy of their love, their affection becomes a burden to bear, another undeveloped hope not yet achieved.
When Sally becomes ill and dependent upon her son for her daily survival, it is then that the burden overwhelms James’ soul and he begins to hide behind the literal mask he wears to survive in the world beyond their home.
Developed with a pacing and movement that is both authentic and unexpected, this award-winning short film takes us to the very depth of James’ despair and gives us a hope that affirms both the beauty and the tragedy of life.
- When you first see James wearing a President Lincoln mask, it is clear that he is hiding. Why do you think he chose Lincoln?
- The tendency to see ourselves as others see us is represented repeatedly throughout the film, from the children’s ridicule to the stare of the little girl on the bus. What do you think they saw when they looked at James? What did the “normal” children see compared to what the “retarded” girl saw?
- If you were James and you found yourself alone in life, what would you do? Where was the larger community beyond their own home? Where was the pastor and church? What difference would a supportive faith community have made? Why do you think this was left out?
- The power of God to lift us into new life is symbolized by the butterflies. How have you experienced spiritual metamorphose?