Our man movie series will largely follow the list posted over at Art of Manliness, 100 Must See Movies: The Essential Men’s Movie Library. It is our goal to showcase the value of cinema as a platform for letting story teach us about our world. Culture shapes and molds much of how we view the definition of masculinity. Movies serve as a platform upon which a cast and crew can convey their worldview and message. Movie goers are subjected to these viewpoints, whether cognizant of that fact or not. Our purpose in reviewing the films in this series is to highlight the good and bad of the movie, cross-examining it with what the Bible has to say about manliness.
These posts are in conjunction with the Men’s Roundtable Ministry of Grace Church in South Carolina. For more information on Grace Church and MRT, go here: Grace Church Men’s Ministry
Today's post is written by my friend Jonathan Allston
“Why do you always follow me when I do something wrong? Why can’t you follow me when I do something good?”
“I wrote your name in the dirt . . . and I pissed on it.”
Daniel Day-Lewis speaks these lines in his portrayal of Gerry Conlon in In the Name of the Father, a film based on actual events. They are lines to which most fathers have no doubt heard something akin. Gerry is in an English prison, wrongfully accused of planting an IRA bomb in a London pub and killing 15 people. His father, played by Pete Postlethwaite, has traveled from Belfast to London in hopes of getting Gerry released, but in the process has been arrested himself as a supposed accomplice to the terrorist act. The two have been placed in a holding cell, and Gerry, who views his father as an overly righteous pushover, unleashes years of pent up frustration at living under the watchful eye of a sickly man.
While innocent of terrorism, Gerry is a petty thief and a liar, and he blames his bad behavior on his father’s lack of strength that stems from religious and moral devotion. His is the familiar story of a boy who cannot imagine ever being able to meet his father’s standards, and thus resigns himself to being bad.
“That’s when I started to steal,” he says, “because I knew I could never be good enough for you.”
Imagined guilt gives birth to real guilt. Gerry hates his father for the guilt he supposes himself to have accrued as a result of impossible standards, and then he becomes truly guilty of thievery. Gerry and his family become the innocent casualties of a police force that wants the public to see someone arrested for terrorism, and then Gerry resigns himself to life in the English prison system and falls in with a genuine IRA leader whom he abets in prison riots. Gerry sets about proving his guilt despite his innocence. All the while Gerry’s father, Giuseppe, slaves away at a seemingly fruitless campaign to expose the legal system for its corruption and prove the innocence of those who have become its scapegoats. He hopes for a reversal even as he watches his son slide further and further into hatred.
We are the men who have inherited a broken world. We are the sons who have hated our fathers, the fathers who have wounded our sons, and the victims who have so often stood aghast at the world’s injustice. There are two responses to such a situation, one represented by Gerry and one by Giuseppe. We can hope that justice will prove our innocence as Giuseppe does, or we can live up to the unjust sentence we have been dealt as Gerry does. We can prove our guilt or we can hope for innocence. Giuseppe’s belief in justice, what Gerry views as his weakness, leads him eventually to his own death 9 years into his sentence. The redemption in the story is that Gerry has been infected with the hope that his father died without ever seeing fulfilled, and the tide turns when Gareth Pierce, an English lawyer played by Emma Thompson, takes up the Conlons’ case.
In the Name of the Father may be my favorite film, and its final scene is almost certainly my favorite scene in all of film. After 16 years in prison, Gerry is fatherless and still considered a terrorist in the eyes of the legal system, and the day has finally come in which someone will speak on his behalf. And Gareth more than speaks on his behalf; she yells and pitches a noble fit at the injustice of the system. For a man who has spent his entire life under the weight of guilt, a man who has spent nearly half of his life trying to live up to a crime he didn’t commit, there is nothing more moving than a mediator that stands up in the face of injustice and screams at it, berates it for its lies, and rages against it for the innocence it steals. When I think of Jesus crushing injustice under his feet, this is the image that comes to mind.
We who know ourselves to be guilty have one who stands in our place, one who takes all our guilt away, and with all the authority in heaven and on earth rages at our accusers and tells them that we are free, righteous, and forgiven.
As men, none of has escaped the injustice of the world. We have indeed hated our fathers and wounded our sons. But the response to our condition should not be to belittle our fathers for the hope they may have, even if it makes them seem weak; and we should not caudle and enable our sons toward their demise, even if it means we lose their respect. We should rather die than resign. We should rather hope than acquiesce to the reign of injustice. There is a Mediator who speaks for us and bleeds for us.
There is a sure hope that all wounds, those we have dealt and those we have been dealt, will be healed in the name of our Father.