Uplifting Films For Troubling Times
by Phil Boatwright

“I will not leave you nor forsake you…Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:5-9. Begin your morning with prayer and time in God’s Word, do your best during the day, eat something good in the evening, hug a loved one at night, and trust the rest to your Heavenly Father. We’ll get through these times.

Here are a few films featuring characters enduring and triumphing over hardships. I’ve also thrown a few that will make you laugh. In fact, those three listed contain the most laughs per frame I’ve found in the movies. And one more film is included that will evoke America’s strengths. Enjoy, and may God bless and embrace you.

Sounder (1972). Award-winning performances from Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson highlight this stirring story of a black sharecropper’s family battling injustice and poverty. Truly marvelous. Rated G.

Together (2002). This Chinese film concerns a widowed father who sacrifices everything in order to support his teenage son’s gifted musical abilities. The son can’t see the sacrifices made on his behalf until the end. Beautifully filmed in the “Forbidden City” of China, full of humor, drama and insight, Together is a powerful morality tale with an ending that moved me to tears. It reminded me of 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has denied the faith.” There are other movies with the same title. This is from China and South Korea and is rated PG.

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). Horton Foote's winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. A beautifully photographed black-and-white movie with a haunting score by Elmer Bernstein. Gregory Peck was never better.

Places In The Heart (1984). A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the '30s Depression. Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film this buff has ever seen. A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven, when his wife, moved by the pastor's sermon, takes her husband's hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ's love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won't give that one away. Trust me, it's powerful! Rated PG (some mild language, implied adulterous affair – but it furthers the story and it is not explicit).

In America (2003). An Irish couple and their two adolescent daughters begin a new life in the U.S. To 11-year-old Christy (Sarah Bolger) and her younger sister (real-life sibling Emma), America is a place of magic where anything is possible. To their parents, it represents a place to begin anew. Caution: it is rated PG-13 for two obscenities and four minor expletives, but I caught no misuse of God’s name. One violent scene has a junkie pulling a knife on a main character; though disturbing, it does not end tragically. We see the parents in a sexual situation, undressing, her bare back is seen, and the two wind up in bed, making love. This scene is not graphic and it portrays a husband and wife expressing their love. Though casual sex is frequently used in movies in an attempt to be erotic, here it expresses a part of married life, showing that sex between married people is good and part of God’s plan. The subject matter of this film is too adult for little kids as it deals with the death of a child, the possible death of a mother during childbirth and the loss of a dear family friend, but I believe mature teens and older will find the honest portrayal of a family’s ability to endure life’s struggles both touching and insightful.

I Remember Mama (1948). Yeah, it’s old, but I saw it again ecently and it holds up. Irene Dunne is outstanding in this gentle story of a Norwegian immigrant family’s struggles while living in San Francisco at the turn of the century. As the Norwegian mama says, Was good.

The Party (1968). Peter Sellers (terrific) stars as a good-hearted bumbler who accidentally destroys a movie set, and then manages to do the same to a fancy party given by the film’s producer. There are a few risqué moments, but it is pretty tame by today’s standards. Not rated.

The Great Race (1965). A comic spoof of old-time melodramas, with Jack Lemmon very funny as the dastardly Professor Fate, Tony Curtis stalwart as the Great Leslie, and Natalie Wood luminous as a suffragette. I think this film has some of the greatest sight gags of all time, plus a great sword fight between Leslie and the villainous Ross Martin. It also has the pie fight to end all pie fights. Most critics only give it 2 ½ stars. To that I say, pshaw. Rated G.

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). I know a lot of critics debate this, but for my money, this is the funniest movie ever made. A non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away. Besides all the visual and verbal gags, and its constellation of comic greats, Mad World also contains some of the best car chases and stunts ever filmed. Rated G.

And here’s a documentary to help you rediscover what made and still makes America Great…America’s Heart And Soull (2004). Filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg packed up his camera and hit the road, with a goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Here you have the chance to meet ordinary Americans with extraordinary stories. Schwartzberg’s gift is his ability to connect with people, honestly capturing their values, dreams, and passion. AMERICA’S HEART AND SOUL is a celebration of a nation told through the voices of its people. Hard to find. Worth the effort. See it!