The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Beyond the Farthest Star

Beyond the Farthest Star is an earnest little faith-based film. It has a finger on something meaningful, which makes its unfocused nature frustrating. Here's a movie that would have been so much better had it just been simpler. Instead of focusing on the part of the story that's potentially affecting, writer/director Andrew Librizzi overcrowds his picture with subplots that go nowhere and extraneous characters who could have easily been chopped out.

Cherami Leigh (Not Cool), plays Anna, the rebellious teenage daughter of pastor Adam Wells (Todd Terry). Adam once enjoyed great fame as a child preacher, but suffered a fall from grace as an adult. Consequently, he's stuck in a small Texas town where few people pay him any mind. Two very significant obstacles throw themselves in his path, meaning Adam has to muster up every ounce of his faith to get through them. First, a politician – angry that the pastor “saved” his wife - burns the nativity scene in the middle of the town square. Second, an acquaintance from his past shows up to expose a traumatic secret that affects Adam, his wife Maureen (Renee O'Connor), and Anna.

The latter problem is the part of Beyond the Farthest Star that's actually kind of interesting. Without giving anything significant away, it deals with the choices we make and the people we choose to love. Cherami Leigh gives a very strong performance as the young woman who tries to sort out surprising familial revelations. Anna is rebelling, although she doesn't always seem to know against what. Learning new information about her parents fundamentally shifts the way she sees them, which in turn reconfigures her attitude. The Christian message also rings truest here, suggesting that those who love us are a gift that should be cherished, even if everyone is occasionally imperfect.

The other problem Adam faces is the movie's big downfall. Beyond the Farthest Star chooses a path taken by too many faith-based films: it throws in weak material about how the government, the media, and others want to persecute Christians. (The sniveling politician is so angry about his wife's conversion to the faith that he's willing to sit in jail to make a point about how much he hates the pastor. And, of course, the media shows up to make a scene about it all.) While some Christians certainly do hold the notion that the world around them is trying to suppress their religion, going this route is deadly for movies. Everything becomes a case of stacking the deck. Beyond the Farthest Star falls right into this trap. It loses focus of the important things by wasting time with a pandering subplot. Worst of all, the story arc is largely abandoned toward the end, resolving itself in an arbitrary, utterly unconvincing manner.

It doesn't help that everything in the film – including the stuff that works - plays at the same dull tone. The actors are even instructed to deliver most of their dialogue in near-whispers. This has the effect of making Beyond the Farthest Star feel monotonous and sluggish. There are also far too many supporting characters who show up, add little or nothing with their irrelevant side stories, and then disappear. (A lawyer helping Adam fight against the politician is a prime example, as are Anna's school rival and the town drunk.) Many of their scenes could have been excised, which would have given the movie a tighter flow.

The production values in Beyond the Farthest Star are of high quality, and there's a good-hearted message in the half of its story that deals with Anna. Generally, though, it's as unfocused as it is sincere. Fans of faith-based films – who generally tend to prioritize message delivery over cinematic technique - may be more forgiving of the picture's weaknesses. This is not, however, something strong enough to have appeal beyond its basic demographic.

( out of four)

Beyond the Farthest Star is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, some violence and smoking. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.

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