Emily Parker reviews the film of the New York Times bestselling novel by William Paul Young.

The Shack

If you like films that take you on a emotional rollercoaster, then step on board as The Shack will take you on one crazy ride.

The Shack by William Paul Young started off as a legacy to his children. After publication it hit bookshelves worldwide, became a bestseller, and has been described as one of the most controversial books of the 21st Century. Now The Shack finally makes it to the big screen after years of rumours and expectation.

Telling the story of the abduction and speculated death of Mackenzie's (Mack's) youngest daughter, Missy. Mack receives a letter in the post and to his astonishment and resentment believes it is from God, asking him to return to the scene where it was suspected that Missy had been murdered - a shack up in the mountains. He returns to find himself face to face with God, where he has an encounter in the most radical form. Through this he asks some of the biggest and most painful questions life has.

This has to be the best acted, produced and beautifully set Christian film I have ever seen. The stand out performance for me came from Octavia Spencer who is simply mesmerizing in her role as Papa. Her performances in recent films including Hidden Figures and Gifted have really set the bar for what a quality actress she is and this film is no exception.

The Shack

Sam Worthington, of recent faith based film "Hacksaw Ridge", also deserves a mention for his sincere and emotional performance when handling sensitive themes, not only of a parent child relationship, but that of one's own faith journey. Recently he was interviewed by BeliefNet and when asked if The Shack had affected or confirmed his view of God in any way Sam replied:

"God, to me when I was growing up, it was such a massive word. Now, it's not so massive. If anything, God's a friend. I'm doing a movie where you get to confront God and maybe receive something back. That's what we often struggle with - these massive kind of concepts of "What am I doing? Why did you let that happen?" Because in the movie, I looked at Octavia (who plays God/Papa) as a friend who might be able to help me...and the same with Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), Sarayu/the Holy Ghost (played by Sumire Matsubara). I kinda looked at them as if I'm asking a friend from the deep bottom of my heart, well, now in my real life that's how I ask God - as a friend. And I'm not scared and it's not overwhelming. God is there to help me and love me."

When going in to watch this film I felt apprehensive. It is not full of theology. I would advise that you view it in a similar way to how you would watch The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are big faith and life questions asked within these books and films, which relate to Bible verses and the nature of God, but that is not to say they are gospel. Imagery is used throughout the storyline, but it is important to note that the use of this imagery doesn't define God and is only used to helps us understand who God is. When interviewed by Cross Rhythms about the imagery used, William Paul Young noted:

"I'm trying to get away from Gandalf with an attitude, or a Santa Claus God who's angry and has a list that He's checking twice and look out because He's coming to town."

The Shack

You will certainly see a different portrayal than what you have encountered before and you will find your perception and relationship with God challenged.

With the first novel now on our big screens, you have to wonder how long it will take to see the second novel by Young made into a film. In 2014 he said, "And there are conversations already about Cross Roads regarding that too - Cross Roads is actually easier as a story to put onto screen." We will see if the success of The Shack is enough to bring both novels to life by Hollywood.

Damaris Media create free film resources for community groups, to discuss the major themes in a film. The resources for The Shack begins with a background to the bestselling novel, and looks at how the film was made. Following this is the opportunity to discuss the film from a cinematic experience and the themes which arise, including looking at two areas of the God who 'surprises' and the God who 'suffers'. You can download The Shack discussion guide.

Want to read the Cross Rhythms interviews about The Shack and Cross Roads head to The Shack and Cross Roads. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.