Wesley (2009) Poster

(2009)

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8/10
My non-Methodist heart was strangely warmed
I was fortunate to stumble across this well crafted drama of the early years of John Wesley's ministry on the Firstlight TV channel in New Zealand. It was quite difficult to find on the IMDb website. For an overtly "Christian" film, it was a surprisingly good film; one I'd rate closer to 8 than 7 out of 10. As a non-Methodist, I had no idea of Wesley's early ministry in the young American colony of Georgia, nor of the torments of youthful love that he experienced there. His family relationships, especially with Charles and Samuel, are shown in some depth, as well as the profound influence of the Moravians in bringing him to a deeper faith and understanding of the essential Christian message. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of his successor George Whitfield's work in America, especially the "revival" forever associated with him, and also more exploration of the later decades of John Wesley's life. All in all, a film of inspiration for today.
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9/10
great religious biography
pmcguireumc10 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Disclaimers first - I am a United Methodist minister and so I am biased by my love for Wesley as our denomination's founder. Nonetheless, I am also a movie fanatic and so when I had a chance to see a nearly complete version of this film back in October, I was very excited, but also somewhat apprehensive.

My distaste of religious films has always been great ever since i saw A thief in the Night back in the 1980s and Left Behind in more recent years. Wesley however, has broken that chain of crap for me.

It was a very well done movie. It was beautifully filmed and the acting is excellent (with the exception of a few small potatoes supporting actors). The actors who play John and Charles have a great chemistry together, and John and Sophey Hopkey's scenes together are wonderful as well. The director did a great job portraying their sexual chemistry, while remaining true to Wesley's own diaries and journals. He does not embellish the story so far as i can tell, and keeps the action moving along well until the last 20 minutes or so.

It is after Wesley's return to England and his "conversion" that the movie drags. Until that point, the movie moves fluidly. Back in England though, it stumbles under its own desire to be historically accurate and give the whole story. There are just a few too many scenes of Wesley's preaching "successes" and his organizational meetings.

The film succeeds on many levels - accurately portraying Wesley's willingness to talk with persons of all backgrounds in order to learn from their faith journeys, it accurately portrays Wesley's ocd and his struggles with adapting to his setting, and finally, it accurately portrays his struggles with the powers that be in the Church of England. Where it falters is trying to tell too much of Wesley's story in the first year after his conversion. The director would have been better served by focusing on John's first exposure to slavery and his lifelong opposition to the practice.

Finally, and for many viewers, the most important part is this: the film does not hesitate in proclaiming the Christian gospel. It is true to Wesley's passion to save souls and it offers a moving portrait of his love for God and the church. Well worth your time.
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