Faith-based films have never been stronger than they have in 2014. Four films in a row each did between $50 and $100 million: “Son of God,” “Noah,” “God’s Not Dead”, and “Heaven is For Real”–and the year isn’t even half over yet!
The next formidable faith-based film on the near horizon is “A Long Way Off,” the first in a series of modern re-tellings of bible stories. This initial story is based on The Parable of The Prodigal Son as told by Jesus Christ in the biblical book of Luke, chapter 15.
Poised for a Father’s Day weekend release, “A Long Way Off” begins with handsome Jake Abraham (JASON BURKEY of “October Baby” and “Mom’s Night Out”) works for his father (JOHN DIEHL of “Stargate” and “Jurassic Park 3″), a successful produce farmer in North Carolina. A recent college graduate with a strong interest in technology, Jake doesn’t like agri-business very much; and he’s desperate to leave for greener pastures in the big city.
To his shock and delight, his father, sensing his son’s frustration, suddenly offers Jake his inheritance. Bidding farewell to his dad; his brother, Seth (DAVE BLAMY of the “Mandie” series); their loyal secretary, Mrs. Grey (EDIE MCCLURG of “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”); and their ranch hand, Jose (ROBERT AMAYA of “Courageous” and “Mom’s Night Out”), Jake heads to the city, ready to invest his recent windfall in a series of sharp stock market moves.
But rather than start slowly with a modest apartment and basic transportation, Jake checks into a swanky hotel and buys a pricey Italian sports car. He later purchases a condominium and spends his nights wining and dining a series of women he meets in bars and nightclubs.
One of his new girlfriends is Laura (JOHANNA JOWETT of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”), who encourages Jake to invest in a speculative movie project. She also introduces him to her shady boyfriend, Frank (ROBERT DAVI of “Goonies”, “Die Hard,” and “License to Kill”), who is interested in Jake’s stock market acumen.
Jake’s morning ritual is to stop off at the local coffee house, where he has a friendly relationship with a beautiful and wholesome barista named Summer (ZOE MYERS of “Anchorman 2″ and “Destiny Road”), who is very much attracted to Jake.
However, any potential for a relationship is scuttled by Jake’s irresponsible lifestyle and his dalliance with Laura. Meanwhile, Jake doesn’t bother to keep in touch with his family and isn’t aware that Abraham Farms is having financial trouble until Summer leaves him a newspaper clipping.
Determined to make a killing in the stock market, Jake places the bulk of his remaining inheritance (and a chunk of Frank’s money) in a video game company. Disaster strikes when the video game company’s stock trading is halted by the SEC, an event that essentially dissolves Jake’s inheritance. Since Frank jumped into the stock too, he’s outraged and ready to kill Jake unless the money is repaid.
Broke, desperate, and eating out of a dumpster, Jake is befriended by Al (RUSTY MARTIN, SR. from “Courageous” and “Princess Cut”), a homeless man who helps him secure a job at a local pig farm, just as in the biblical account in Luke. There, in the mud, Jake is taught to realize that he can still go home, and that family love and forgiveness are not as ephemeral as the stock market.
It is at this point where the viewers see what may be the best father-son reunion in film history: a humbled Jake hitchhikes home penniless, only to be spotted by his father who saw him from ‘a long way off’ and runs to his son, embracing him and showing him total forgiveness and overwhelming love. Jake reunites with his family, determined to make a new start at Abraham Farms. Of course, his big ‘good’ brother is not delighted to see everyone on the farm bestowing praises and love upon the once wayward son; but after a heart-to-heart talk from his loving father, even Seth joins the party–with a newfound sense of humor.
Jake returns to rekindle a relationship with Summer, who is delighted to see the new Jake; and instead of buying the most expensive drinks in the coffee shop, he orders plain coffee.
With superb cinematography and a plot that keeps building and drawing in the viewer progressively, “A Long Way Off” is only missing one two things: 1) It has no bad words in it–not even a ‘darn'; and 2) No one is falling out of their clothing– not a single scene showing any cleavage. Even in the scenes where Jake hits bottom, the scenes end just before any lips lock. Yet, it is unlikely anyone watching the film will even notice any of that was missing since the story is so well told that there was no need for Hollywood smut to ‘enhance’ the scenes.
Directed by John Errington and produced by Michael Davis and overseen by Executive Producers Jerry & Christy McGlothlin, this film features Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter Christa Wells (who wrote the hit ‘Held’ for Natalie Grant).
Applause, applause to the makers of “A Long Way Off.” If we see more films like this, the redemption of Hollywood may not be quite so far off as we might think.