Being raised by an abusive parent doesn’t come off as easy in the movies, and it shouldn’t since real life is no easier. When Mackenzie, played by Sam Worthington, is abused as a boy, he does the right thing by telling someone, but the fact that his father hears of this only makes things worse as he continues to beat Mack so badly that his wife, Mack’s mother, ends up leaving. As the beatings continue, Mack takes matters into his own hands and poisons his father’s whiskey with strychnine, killing him. The story speeds up several years to show Mack as a grown man with a wife and kids of his own. For all intents and purposes, he has a loving family, and he’s a decent man, a loving father, and a good husband. But there is something that appears to trouble Mack as he doesn’t sing in church, which is one indication that his faith isn’t where it needs to be. When he goes on a camping trip with his three kids, though, things only get worse.
Losing a child in any manner is enough to gut a parent.
When Mack’s two older kids have a canoeing incident, Mack has to dive into the water to save them, leaving his youngest, Missy, behind at the camp. When he returns, she’s gone, and both Mack and Kate blame themselves for her loss. As time moves forward a bit, it can be seen that Mack’s faith is shaken even more, while Kate becomes silent and withdrawn. One day during the winter, Mack finds a letter welcoming him back to the shack where Missy’s dress and blood were found by the police and FBI. He initially blames his next-door neighbor, thinking that it’s a prank, but eventually, he makes his way back to the shack, fully intent on meeting with the person who killed his daughter. Upon reaching the shack, however, he finds no one and is ready to shoot himself when he notes a stranger walking outside.
The strangers he meets are a great deal of help in more than one way.
When he encounters the shack and then Papa, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, it’s not too much of a surprise since Mack came out to the shack for a reason, and after Five Best Religion-Based Movies and listening to the hype for this movie, it could have only been a divine intervention to vie for the security of Mack’s soul. As those Mack encounters seek to help him from judging others and judging himself, they also broaden his way of thinking as they attempt to keep Mack from walking the destructive path he’s been on since he lost Missy. It’s a lesson that many would likely argue with since it’s exceedingly tough to forgive people for the heinous things they sometimes do, and trying to forgive anyone for beating you or for taking your child, would be insanely tough, nigh impossible in some cases since taking a child from their family is a sin that many aren’t willing to forgive, let alone forget. But it would appear that this is what Mack has to do, against all odds.
The many lessons were bound to be tough, but finding his daughter was even worse.
Just when one thought that the lessons were going to bring a sense of peace to Mack, the time came to find and bury his daughter. Doing this would undoubtedly break some individuals since the loss of one’s child would be bad enough, but having to finally say goodbye in person feels as though it would crush one’s spirit. If not for the lessons that had already been given, it feels as though Mackenzie would have easily folded under this revelation, no matter that it was a chance to put his daughter to rest as he desired. That being said, it was a very touching movie in a lot of ways, but it does feel open to argument, no matter how controversial that might sound. Everyone has their own ideas about religion and what awaits humans in the afterlife. Some might not even agree with forgiving the killer, who was absent apart from a brief appearance. But all in all, there’s plenty of room for discussion.
As religion-based movies go, it’s not too bad.
Some of us view religion-based movies in a different light, not from doubt and cynicism, but from an observation point that is anything but devout but also isn’t argumentative. This was an interesting movie from a philosophical standpoint as well, especially considering that forgiveness is something that a lot of people might have issues with. The end of the movie shows Mackenzie renewing his faith and makes the audience wonder if the entire episode in the shack actually happened in the first place.
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