“You can’t buy forgiveness. It’s free, but you have to ask for it.”
Length: 103 mins
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Sissy Spaceck . 103 minutes
Director: Aaron Schneider
A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party… while he was still alive. Pathos and comedy intertwined.
Get Low begins with the sight of a blazing rural homestead, and ends with the image of a small group of friends clustered around a humble grave. In between is the story of an old man’s last bid for forgiveness and redemption. The film offers a meditation on getting old, and on the desire to garrote regret before mortality makes its final fatal lunge. Tim Kroenert. His write up on the film is here: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=26234
There is a very existential quality to Felix’s struggle. He takes his guilt seriously. He is not willing to accept the cheap grace of forgiving himself easily. But that also stands in the way of any other forgiveness—human or divine—that would help to unburden him as he approaches death. Forgiveness and grace are always a struggle. As Felix is told early on, it’s free, but it must be asked for. It only comes by being open to it. As Felix prepares for what he sees coming, it is this struggle to open himself to grace that is even more difficult than bearing the weight of his past. © 2010 Hollywood Jesus, https://www.hollywoodjesus.com
Questions for discussion
Some general questions might provide enough of a framework for you to discuss the movie:
- What stood out as the main highlights in the movie?
- What themes are explored (guilt, forgiveness, grace, regret etc)?
- What assumptions were embedded in the story?
- What challenged you? What questions did it raise for you?
- Are there aspects of the movie that resonate with your own story/experience?
- Are there any biblical or theological themes or characters evoked by the story?
More specific questions in relation to the movie
Discuss the way that ‘confession’ and the courage to take responsibility can be cathartic, healing and liberating in a person’s life, as well as in community life.
What examples are there in the public arena (eg Rudd’s apology to Aboriginal people, the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa etc) as well as between people?
How might ‘confession’ operate both within and beyond the formal structures of church and law?
Discuss the option to ‘bribe’ God when people are desperate due to guilt, or circumstances.
What theological ‘lens’ is used to describe God’s relationship with people?
Discuss the crippling effect of pain and guilt in people’s lives that prevent them living fully.
Discuss the dynamic at work when people choose to barricade themselves in ‘prisons’ of their own making.
‘Sin’ – for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23). Sin is an area of theology that in some circles has been downplayed, as ‘original sin’ and ‘atonement’ theology has been challenged and given way to other dimensions such as ‘grace and mercy and forgiveness’. Discuss ‘sin’ in Felix’s life and your own understanding of the dynamic of ‘sin’.
At a more personal level:
What would you expect people might say at your funeral? How do you make yourself open to hear these things in your life? What sort of stories might they be (bitter, sad, funny, heartfelt, pathos, surprising, etc).
In what ways are your ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ worlds congruent? Do people have an opportunity to see the ‘real’ you or do you sense others relate at a more superficial level on what they see and therefore presume?
What things in the past might hold you back in the present, and need resolution? How are these things played out in your life – isolation, self-punishment, withdrawal, denial etc?
What aspects of the film reveal areas that might need further exploration in your own life, or in your relationships or community?
© Rev Sandy Boyce, Pilgrim Uniting Church May 2011
This resource is prepared to assist thoughtful reflections and deeper conversations after viewing a movie, and can be used freely by groups and individuals.