Although Elder Farrell and Elder Lozano are assigned together as Mormon missionary companions they are a study in contrasts. Farrell, from Utah, is bookish, sensitive, focused on seeking potential converts, and dedicated to following mission rules. Elder Lozano was shot by a rival gang when being initiated into the Latino gang of his brothers and then was converted to the LDS church while recovering at the same time as a missionary in the hospital. Due to go home in three weeks, he shows more interest in playing basketball than teaching people. One day while going door to door in Venice, California they find themselves caught in crossfire as a Latino gang does a drive-by shooting. Lozano renders aid to Carl, an African American gang member who is seriously wounded. Upon recovery, Carl thanks him and becomes interested in learning about what the missionary has to teach about redemption. Returning home, the elders find an ill man lying on the street and take him back to their apartment.... Written by
The film does not mention it, but clearly describes Elder Lozano as a Colombian character, since he used to be a gang-member with his brother, a common case in Medellín, a Colombian city where the last name "Lozano" is very common. See more »
[the elders are playing basketball on "P" day. Speaking to Elder Farrell]
Come on. Get in here man, we're getting our butts kicked.
[Elder Farrell shakes his head negatively]
Come on Farrell, we're one man short.
I'll do it.
I said, we're one MAN short.
You're one short man, that's what you are.
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This film is the third "Mormon Cinema" film from writer/director Richard Dutcher. It presents a similar setting as his first film "God's Army" in that the main characters portrayed are Mormon Missionaries and their unique experiences in the real world. In fact in the predominantly Mormon communities in Utah this is being billed as a Sequel "God's Army 2: States of Grace" whereas it is assumed that outside of Utah it will be billed as simply "States of Grace". States of Grace is more appropriate however as this new film isn't a continuation of the last nor are any of the characters from the first represented (with one minor exception of the "Mission President"). As with prior Dutcher films, this one weaves into it believable, real life characters, believable faith, and a realistic gritty world setting. The theme of this film is represented in it's title "States of Grace" and deals primarily with real life redemption. We have the Missionary who is about to go home who has a closed book past, but carries the literal scars that hint to his background. We have his companion who is neither over the top good or rebellious bad, but just a generally believable regular missionary. You have their neighbor who is a good person has hidden her spiritual scars where no one can see them. You have the homeless street preacher whose at first seems to be just another crazy rambling loon, but has made bad decisions to get to the point he is. And you have the gang member whose past is not as important as his future and his decisions about the path going forward.
The film covers a little over a couple of weeks (three, almost four perhaps) and the events that bring them together. Some events are jarring, others are more subtle. But the lives of these individuals become intertwined with real life reactions.
There are no miracles or lights from the skies. No angels or demons. The Goodness portrayed in the film is very real and true. The Evil portrayed is very real and true. What happens to each of the characters and how they respond is very natural. I don't think it would be very easy for someone to watch this film and say "that's not true" or "that would never happen". The stories portrayed do and have happened.
The film is good. It is well done and the stories are well told and acted out.
That being said, the film suffers from the expected. It was done on a very shoestring budget and the creative control and external influences on the making of the film appear very centralized around Dutcher. There were some scenes that should have been cut entirely because they were duplicate of others or they spelled out plot direction that wasn't really in question (a little too "on the nose"). Also the dialogue, although being very natural, was sometimes TOO natural to the point were it could have used some "spicing up" at the writing level or some "creative editing" in the cutting room to liven them up. It seems like everyone in this film is a "listener" to everything anyone says that they are around. I don't think any dialogue ever overlapped or was cut short.
The film could have lost 10 to 15 minutes and it would have helped, rather than hurt it.
In classic Dutcher form the film evokes a deep emotional response at the end and does so pretty successfully without feeling too contrived or forced. It's not a happy ending, and it's not a sad ending. The ending as always is LIFE with a glimmer of hope that things can get better.
For the non-Mormon viewing audience, you should have no problems seeing this film. It's as "faith promoting" as the Thorn Birds is to Catholicism. That's not the films intent and there is no preaching as the "save all" of Mormon values or faith. It really is a good film about real characters and the Mormons could easily be of any faith as archetypes.
For the Mormon viewing audience, if you want any portrayal of the church you view to be a mirror image of those produced by the church, then you may have problems with this this film. But be assured the problem is not with the film, but with your belief on what all portrayals of Mormons should be. This film attempts to portray Mormon's in Real Life with the real challenges that exist. If you had problems with Brigham City because of it's positive AND negative portrayals of Mormons, then you will most likely have problems with "States of Grace" as well. You're better off sticking with the "I'll Build You a Rainbow" filmstrip.
My hat goes off to Richard Dutcher however as he has tried and succeeded to create an entertaining film that is true to life and itself.
There's much worse out there to waste your $5 off of than on this film.
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