4 Stars – Transforming
Life has a way of fooling us into believing that no one sees our imperfections or the lies we tell ourselves and others. If that were true, there would be no one in prison, no one divorced, no one feeling unappreciated, hurt, lonely or lost. We may like to boast that we know where we are going, but much of the world goes through life driving with the lights off hoping they don’t hit anything in the dark.
This is a simple story of self-delusion leading to a serious collapse of one’s life. Similar to Kübler-Ross’s descriptions of the stages of death and dying, first there is denial, fighting against the odds that this will prove to be fatal, then arguing, pleading, and finally giving in.
Alex Montoya (Cristel De Leon) is the son of a pastor who, when he was a teenager, witnessed his father being unjustly turned away from his church. The pain that ensued left him with bitterness towards the church and what he perceived as religious hypocrisy. That didn’t stop him, though, from being a part of a local congregation of believers. Rather than seeking the Lord, he sought to use others in the church for his own personal gain, including using money scams to advance his vices of women and gambling. If the church could hurt his family, then he felt justified in hurting other innocent people, or at least balancing the scales of perceived injustice.
Alex, along with fellow scam artist Daniel de la Cruz (David Morales), took money from people who were in desperate situations and were in need of cash. It wasn’t just people he barely knew, though, it also included his new girlfriend, Elaine (Melissa Dixon). Every scam was justified by thinking that it was always someone else’s fault. Every scam drove him deeper and deeper into despair.
This is a basic story of sin, forgiveness, and the saving grace of God. It is not a slick Hollywood production, but its message is a classic sermon of death and resurrection. It is a local, home-grown story filmed on the streets of the cities on the south coast of California. Written and Directed by Issac Meeks and Sandon Yahn, the actors are all from the southern California area and everyone else in the movie is a local extra. Many of the church scenes were filmed at Calvary Chapel in Santa Barbara.
Alex’s restoration begins with a hard challenge from a fellow church member, Jacob (Joe Lambert), who intercedes on his behalf with those in authority who would just like to put Alex away in prison for breaking trust with everyone. There isn’t much focus on the struggles that everyone must go through to forgive Alex, and often there is too much melodrama in Alex’s remorse. Nevertheless, the Scriptural truths are expressed clearly and Jacob’s call for grace is convicting. Jacob becomes a voice from God, proclaiming the good news of Christ that redemption is a gift waiting to be accepted.
Redemption of the Heart is a clear reminder that to see clearly, we have to look with the eyes of God. Even the worst sinner deserves His amazing grace.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- When you have been disappointed in or even harmed by the people in your church, how have you responded? What did this do to your relationship with God? How did you find forgiveness and healing?
- It is the responsibility of the pastors and leaders of a congregation to recognize those who are harming the church and to take action to protect people, including the perpetrators. Do you find this to be true in your own congregation? What part do you play in keeping your church safe?
- The nature of forgiveness requires the grace of God. How has God helped you to forgive others, both within and outside of your church?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.