The Perfect Stranger

Front Standard. The Perfect Stranger [DVD] [2005].My wife found this film on a streaming platform the other night. I was listening to it from the bedroom for a few minutes. Then I came out to watch the last three-quarters. The cynic in me thought, “Apologetics: The Movie.” But it’s a bit more.

Then I hunted down some info on the 2005 movie. It’s based on a novella penned by David Gregory. It has gotten generally favorable reviews.

The basics: a lawyer gets a dinner invitation from a mysterious man who presents himself as Jesus. Conversation over wine, fish dish, and dessert commence.  There’s an escort to the car and then the lawyer is home for a night with her family, fresh with a new perspective on life and faith.

The good: it’s well acted, well set in what looks like a real restaurant, and few Christians of any flavor would find much complaint. It hits hard against pelagianism, and leans toward non-denominational goodness of God. Thankfully, the “miracles” are subtle. I asked my wife about it; she said she “really liked it.” When querying her about any dislikes, she said there were none for her. I think I can share the film triggered a memory of mixed feelings and we talked about it. Another plus: it’s potentially thought-provoking.

Here and there, there are some problems. It’s like apologetics: canned questions that would make a lot of people, especially skeptics, stop and protest, “What about my questions for God?” The usual suspects: Hitler, bin Laden, and variations on the Psalmist’s favorite: why do the innocent suffer and the unjust flourish? It doesn’t know what to say about the Trinity. Jesus basically shrugs and says we can’t understand it. Though I think if the filmmaker tried to do better, any response might have highlighted differences among Christians. The answers may be a bit too easy for human tragedy. The character Nikki brings up her parents’ divorce and her father’s death when she was a teen. Jesus’ response wasn’t wrong, but it convinced her a little too quickly. I could do without the post-film interviews. Skip them unless you’re really interested in actors’ takes on their work.

Overall this is a pleasant film. It hits Christian agreement well. Apologetics isn’t oversold. It’s not The Mission. Thankfully, it’s also not Left Behind. For basic Christians, recommended. For theologians, go with The Mission.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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