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*** This review may contain 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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