Earlier in the year, I promised to have regular guest posts on this blog and today I’m happy to bring you another. KE Garland is a friend to this blog, a talented writer and a fellow KG :). Her self-titled blog is one of my favourites to visit and having her guest post on my blog is a real honour. Her talents extend beyond merely blogging and she’s releasing a new book this year called The Unhappy Wife. Read below for more information on how to get your hands on this book but first let’s get into her review of War Room.
War Room is a faith-based independent movie released in 2015. The directors and writers, Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick are quickly becoming famous for their Christian-themed movies. Many times indie films suffer from low budgets, but this is not the case for War Room. I imagine the Kendrick brothers’ past success has something to do with how well funded this project is. After all, their previous movie, Courageous (2011) grossed over 34 million dollars. Consequently, War Room was produced with three million. That’s impressive for an independent film.
The movie follows a familiar narrative. Priscilla Shirer’s character, Elizabeth is married to Tony (T.C. Stallings), a verbally abusive, selfish, cheating man. Although he makes a substantial salary, Tony refuses to loan his sister-in-law money for rent and he isn’t involved in his daughter’s life or extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, Elizabeth befriends one of her real estate clients, Miss Clara, played by Karen Ambercrombie. The older and wiser Miss Clara offers to mentor Elizabeth by showing her how to be more submissive. Miss Clara helps Elizabeth prepare a “war room,” a place designed for Elizabeth to focus on scripture and pray for her husband and their marriage. The movie’s climax shows Tony on the cusp of following through with an out of town affair, while Elizabeth prays even harder for God to rebuke the spirit of the Devil in her home. Because this is a Christian-based film, you can probably guess that the remainder of the script ties everything together, quite neatly with a bow. It is no less than a miracle that the wife’s prayers and submission saves her marriage.
Though the predominantly African-American cast is not well-known, their performances are adequate. For example, Allena Pitts plays the believable hurt daughter, Danielle. I also found myself hating Tony because he seemed to despise his wife. Likewise, it’s not just the make-up and special effects that make Miss Clara a believable older black woman, but it’s her delivery. Lines like “How much of the one hour we got today are you gon’ spend whining about your husband?” remind me of something my own grandmother might say.
Though the acting is well done, the characters and themes are trite and unoriginal. For example, how many times must we hear about the same cheating husband? Furthermore, if a husband is adulterous, shouldn’t he be involved in his own salvation? I also found Elizabeth’s character to be a little clichéd. Although she is a strong real estate agent, she is naive about how to function as a wife, proclaiming to one of her coworkers, “It’s hard to submit to a man like that.” And while Elizabeth’s comrades are clueless, Miss Clara offers the perfect solution: Christian guidance wrapped in scripture and analogies. Are all older women this wise, wandering around quoting sage advice?
Although preaching is expected with these types of films, War Room’s message that women should submit to their husbands is over the top didactic. While I’m happy for the Kendrick brothers’ success, I wish that filmmakers like them would create more authentic situations and consequences that don’t depict women as marital saviors. In 2016, it’s not only time that husbands and wives take responsibility for repairing dysfunctional marriages, but it’s also time that films portray that process, especially if there is a Christian-based theme.
If you’d like to see the same old religious story played out in modern times, then rent War Room. Otherwise, I’m sure you’re not missing anything new if you choose to pass.
Dr. K E Garland is a blogger, freelance writer and author. Her recently published book, The Unhappy Wife is available for pre-order via Amazon. Beginning October 20th, paperback versions are available via her website www.kegarland.com.