4 Stars - Inspiring
What do you think when you see a person who is homeless? Do you assume they are somehow different from those of us who have homes? Are you afraid that they may be violent or “spread germs” or hurt you in some way? Or do you assume that they have “chosen not to work and will spend every cent they get on drugs”? Those dehumanizing thoughts allow us to either ignore them or judge them. The truth is that every human being is of infinite worth and has a unique story, the same as any of us. This truth is caught in the title and the story of Michael Carney’s second film Same Kind of Different as Me.
This true story of Deborah Hall (Renee Zellweger) exemplifies the power of persistent love. A wealthy Texan whose husband Ron (Greg Kinnear) is an international art dealer is confronted with the emptiness of her marriage when Ron informs her of his affair. As a Christian, Debbie struggles to know how to forgive and restore her marriage. The answer comes in a dream - a dream in which she sees a man who is going to not only transform her marriage but also her community.
When Debbie hears about his affair, she gives Ron the choice to stay with her or leave. Ron chooses her. Although it isn’t explained, she seems to put him on a path of penance in which she has him assist her in feeding the homeless at the Union Gospel Mission. It is here that Debbie sees an older African-American man nicknamed Suicide, a violent and angry man. Recognizing him from her dream and determined to know who he is, she and Ron befriend him and discover he is Denver More (Djimon Hounsou). Denver is a remarkable man whose unique journey has left him isolated and afraid.
We won’t spoil the story by telling how this relationship develops or the powerful, inspiring message Denver gives to us all, except to note that the film gives us a glimpse not only into his uniqueness but also into the unique stories of several others in the mission. From Chef Jim (Thomas Francis Murphy) who provides the meals, to Clara (Ann Mahoney) an abandoned mother, to a timid giant nicknamed Tiny (Theodus Crane), we hear their unique stories. But what makes these stories all the more enlightening is the story of Ron himself. Ron is the workaholic son of an alcoholic father and codependent mother. Earl Hall (Jon Voight) is the source of both the fear and the prejudices placed within Ron’s soul. This becomes obvious as Denver is brought into the family home and increasingly into family activities and celebrations.
We can all live in painful isolation thinking that we are somehow different from others. This isolated place insulates us from the love of God and others. But the unrelenting love of God and His true followers can restore us to a shared life and community in which His love casts out our fear. This is a message of God’s transforming love that inspires and motivates us to reach out to others and discover their unique sameness to ourselves so that we can share life in community.
- During the credits we are able to see and hear the words of Denver himself, as he and Ron told their story and inspired a generation to see, acknowledge and join our fellow human beings in need of a home. As Denver says, we are all homeless in search of our true home. Have you found your true place of belonging? Why or why not?
- The power of friendship is noted by Earl when he quotes William Blake’s poem: “The bird a nest, the spider a web, a man friendship.” (1757) This statement comes as Earl recognizes that his addiction to alcohol had kept him from his true heart’s love. Is there anything keeping you from such fulfillment?
- It is easier to judge a homeless person than to open our hearts in mutual care. This is true as well for anyone who is a stranger. How are you making your heart available to those you do not yet know or understand?