Andrea’s film review – Father Stu

Father Stu ⭐️⭐️1/2  Review by Andrea Carnevali

Follows the life of Father Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption. Out next week.

Based on a true story, as we can see from the obligatory real photos and an video extract over the end credits, Father Stu tells of a former boxer (Mark Wahlberg) who after a series of ‘’unfortunate events’’ finds God and decides to become a priest.

The problem with a film like this is that if you do not buy into the reasons for which Stu turns to God, then nothing else really makes sense after that and unfortunately this is exactly what happened to me.

Director Rosalind Ross, here on her first film, seems to focus on all the wrong things and eventually trivialises a potentially inspirational story.

For example, she spends an awfully long time setting up Stu’s life before the “incident‘’, but definitely not enough trying to explain what really made him change from agnostic and madly in love with a woman, to wanting to become a priest within five minutes of screen-time.

It’s a contagious problem in this film apparently, because people seem to make life-changing decisions which contradict their characters very quickly and mostly off-screen. And so the same abrupt change for example happens to Mel Gibson, who plays Stu’s father.

His redemption from a selfish, drunk, obnoxious man, who’s never really been close to his son, to “father of the week”, might be true to real life, but in the film is clunky and feels phoney. But then again, since the director is Mel’s partner (and the mother of his children) we can see why he was chosen to play a character who’s granted a second chance.

Very little time is given to the inspiring effects and positive impact Stu must have had to his local community. We see people queuing up to be able to see him, but we don’t really know how he was able to touch them: we are just supposed to take it all for granted.

It is still a very watchable film (in fact audiences in the Austin where the film has already been released, seemed to like it a lot more than I did) and Wahlberg does his best despite being somewhat miscast, not helped by some weird-to-say-the-least and rather distracting make-up in the last act.

The film makers’ hearts are possibly in the right place, but they let down a good story and great cast down (Jacki Weaver and Malcom McDowell are also in the film) with a superficial script and a bland direction which ticks boxes instead of exploring them.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick

Father Stu is out in cinemas on 13 May.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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