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Disenchanted by the church and his devout Christian mother, 19 year-old Donald escapes Texas for the liberal Northwest and attends Reed College at the urging of his secular father. At Reed College, Don finds that his classmates, from all walks of life, are more anti-religious and anti-everything than he was prepared for. In an attempt to fit in, and more importantly, in an attempt to find himself, Don joins an activist group which forces him to question what he really believes in.Written by
When I heard Donald Miller's book was being made into a movie, I was half elated, half skeptical. While the book-- that sold over 1.2 Million Copies-- is one of my favorites, it doesn't really lend itself well to a movie screenplay.
Or so I thought.
The movie follows a young kid named Don as he grows up in a Southern Baptist church in Texas, the only child of a uber-religious single mother and absentee deadbeat dad he refers to as "the hobo." Don is about to graduate from High School and is headed to Bible College. He's then faced with a situation that shakes him to his core. He ends up at Reed College, a liberal college in Oregon. The stories that follow show us the author's real struggles with faith and how he comes to grips with his own spirituality aside from the oppressive, rigid religious home he was raised in.
In addition to the screenplay, the director of photography does an impeccable job bringing the characters to life. The characters in the book, though not completely identical to the ones in the movie, become so personally vulnerable and familiar through equal parts can't-look-away awkwardness and close, tight, clean camera work that by the end of the film I found myself angry at myself for not interpreting the characters in the book more accurately even though they were in fact the real people.
BLJ is a movie that is desperately needed in the Christian art scene. The stunning dialog surrounding the film and the idiotic, egocentric way it has been received by many evangelical groups and churches clearly illustrate how needed films like this are. It earns its PG13 ranking in earnest, and there's no Kirk Cameron anywhere to be found. People talk about loving Jesus while drinking a beer, and not everyone who professes to follow Christ walks about with a pious attitude praying out loud and thumbing their Bibles incessantly. They make mistakes, hurt each other, and even cuss! In other words, it's real.
Kudos to Miller, Taylor and company. BLJ has, if nothing else, made in-roads for other non-craptastic movies with a Christ-centered message.
Thank you, God.
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