May 19, 2017/
Release Date: May 25th, 2017
Steeped in controversy when it first came out in 2007, William P. Young’s NY Times Bestseller, The Shack, is now on the big screen.
Starring Aussie Sam Worthington as ‘Mack’, The Shack takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack spirals into depression, questioning his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter from God, inviting him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack accepts the invitation, and comes face to face with an enigmatic trio (aka. God), led by a woman named Papa (Octavia Spencer). Throughout their meeting, Mack questions God, finding important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy, and ultimately change his life forever.
When it was first released, God as a woman was a sticking point for many readers of The Shack. The non-traditional representation of His personhood, and supposed manipulation of His form was uncomfortable. Readers had issue with Young’s depiction of God as tolerant and non-judgmental, believing Young promoted theological inaccuracies. Yet, there was also no denying The Shack had a profound ability to help people deal with grief, and question their assumptions of God.
Speaking with Director Stuart Hazeldine, depicting God on the big screen involved a lot of consideration – “I don’t think we’ve ever seen the Holy Spirit on film” – but the responsibility was met with a desire to reveal the love of God, and His availability to us as Friend and Father:
“[The Shack] is really about the relational aspect of God. God as Trinity is what allows us to say that God is love. If God is just a single being, and there are no angels, no humans, no nothing, it’s very hard to say ‘God is love’ because love only exits where a relationship exists.”
Sam Worthington (Mack) says, “I had a visceral reaction to the script… I could identify with it emotionally [as Mack] goes through what he did with Papa, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit; I’ve had those arguments. I wanted to go into that world and question it, and use the script as a cathartic experience for myself.”
Whether today’s viewers will find it controversial or not, doesn’t seem to be the point. As Mack journeys with God to understand his grief and find some reason for his loss, the greater message of The Shack is one of forgiveness and recovery.
In the words of Avraham Aviv Alush (Jesus), hopefully The Shack will remind us “Life is short and everyday, every moment you can choose to live in darkness or choose to live in the light – you have the freedom to choose… Whatever you believe or don’t believe you have the choice… you don’t have to stay in pain and suffering.”
LISTEN NOW: Laura Bennett interviews The Shack Director, Stuart Hazeldine.
*Interview originally aired on Hope 103.2.
High point: Hanging out at Papa’s house.
Low Point: The meandering pace of the story.
Best digested with: White wine and dumplings.
More Film Reviews from The Connect Press.
Podcast: What More Could There Really Be? Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston
Looking on at Hillsong Church with its Grammy-winning worship team, and an international congregation of over 100,000 people, it’s hard to imagine what ‘more’ could be ahead of this Sydney-born megachurch.