Sony // 2012 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 7th, 2013
Sometimes the heroes are on the sidelines.
Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis) is a high school senior with an especially full plate. Not only must he navigate the usual social and academic pitfalls of high school, but he has to contend with his young twin sisters, serving as de facto parent in the absence of his deceased mother and deadbeat father. The pressure mounts when the bank calls with a foreclosure warning, and Seth's frustrations spill over into various altercations with the school football team.
An exasperated coach exiles Seth to work after school with Abel the eccentric groundskeeper (Kevin Sorbo). Their relationship starts off cold and rocky, but as the two spend more time together, they realize they have more in common than either thought. The downside: it's pretty much pain and sadness that they share. The upside: God loves them.
That's right, this is another Christian film. And yes, I understand the breadth of baggage that accompanies an outing from this genre. Having reviewed most of the God-centric discs which have come through DVD Verdict's doors over the years, I've been exposed to all manner of production, from the overwrought and corny (Fireproof, Seven Days in Utopia), to the genuinely bracing and well-executed (Saving God, Faith Like Potatoes). Abel's Field falls somewhere in between.
This is a solid telling of faith that doesn't shy away from the Good News. Yet it comes up short in the storytelling department, preventing the film from entering the rarified air of High-Quality Jesus Flicks. Not that Jesus wouldn't be down with what's happening in Abel's Field. The crux of His message is present and accounted for: humans are flawed people and make monster mistakes, but are capable of redemption and achieving forgiveness. This idea of God salvaging what was previously considered unsalvageable is starkly expressed, and Abel uses some of his few words to explicitly spell out this premise.
Abel's Field never feels heavy-handed, thanks to Seth and Abel's realistic grappling with Christianity. It's no spoiler to say that Seth's hard stance against the Divine eventually softens, but his process getting to that point feels about right. Abel's a guy with a secret, the revelation of which is where the film ultimately flags. It's a big narrative turning point, essentially spilled out in one concentrated burst of exposition, but feels rushed and given short shrift. Throughout the film, Abel scrawls in a mysterious leather book and is very protective of it. What is it? What is he writing? Why does he freak out whenever someone gets closes to it? Don't expect a satisfactory answer, as this revelation is thrown away at the very end with a lame explanation.
Straightforward DVD presentation from Sony, starting with a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, two Dolby 5.1 mixes (English and Spanish), English SDH/French/Spanish subtitles, and a 25-minute making-of featurette.
A decent effort all-around.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG