“For 4,000 years, the faith of Abraham has given hope to billions.” Those words appear onscreen at the start of His Only Son. Perhaps you’ve heard Abraham’s story a million times at church. I sure have. Seeing it dramatized is a whole different ball game. The film made me think about the story and its meaning more deeply than ever before. Such is the power of cinema. Anyone seeking a good Biblical drama will almost certainly walk out of this picture feeling satisfied and raised up.
Right off the bat, Abraham (Three Thousand Years of Longing’s Nicolas Mouawad) is visited by God. The Lord instructs him to travel to Moriah and sacrifice his son Isaac (Edaan Moskowitz). That, obviously, is a startling request. Abraham informs his wife Sarah (Sara Seyed), then begins the 3-day walk with the unsuspecting Isaac and two traveling companions. The movie intersperses their journey with flashbacks showing how the presumed-to-be-infertile Sarah became pregnant with the son they long prayed for. God spoke to Abraham previously and rewarded him, which is why he trusts the plan now, difficult as it is.
His Only Son is undeniably on the talky side. There isn’t any real overt action, save for one confrontation the men have with a band of guards on the road to Moriah. Nor is the movie like the recent Jesus Revolution or Southern Gospel, both of which incorporate humor and music. Abraham talks to Sarah, he talks to Isaac, he talks to his fellow travelers. The heaviest drama comes in the flashbacks, as Sarah struggles to accept her husband’s claims of divine conversation and grapples with feelings of failure for not being able to bear him a child.
His Only Son puts a great deal of emphasis on the clash between Abraham’s faith and his anguish over what he must do to Isaac. Mouawad conveys how heavily it weighs on the character, while also making it clear that he trusts God has a compelling reason for issuing the request. The movie generates a lot of drama from that, especially as the flashbacks reveal how excited he and Sarah were to finally have a child. Abraham is being asked to do the unthinkable. All during the trek, he contemplates what this means and how he will carry on afterward.
The movie’s high point is Sara Sayed, whose performance is excellent. She infuses the story with an extra level of emotion, as Sarah adds dismay about her husband’s plan to the hurt she feels over how he handled her infertility in the past. The actress’s work is nuanced and powerful. Several of the scenes between Sarah and Abraham are highlighted by stunning cinematography from Nick Walker. It underscores the shifting dynamics between them.
Again, the pace of His Only Son is fairly languid. Once you get on that wavelength, it becomes apparent that Abraham’s story is being told with conviction and sincerity. Even if you know how the journey ends, the inherent significance is profoundly touching. The idea of what it means to have faith is depicted in many Christian-themed films. This particular film makes it really hit home.
out of four
His Only Son is rated PG-13 for thematic content and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.