Sony // 2008 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 9th, 2009
Where there's love, there's hope.
The true story about a Scottish farmer in South Africa and his newfound relationship with God. Ignore that generic description and the goofy title: Faith Like Potatoes is slam-bang Holy filmmaking.
The film is based on the true story of Angus Buchan (Frank Rautenbach), a Scottish farmer who moved to South Africa to seek his farming fortune. What he finds is a land plagued with violence and harsh agricultural conditions, which don't mix well with his fiery temper. One day, while at church, Frank has an epiphany and chooses to follow the Lord. From that point on, his life changes dramatically. His temper has gone and preaching his testimony becomes a nearly full-time job.
His faith will be put to the test in the face of a staggering loss, the omnipresent threat of violence towards his family and a particularly brutal famine that may wipe him out.
Is it possible? Has the world of Christian filmmaking finally built up enough credibility to roll with the big boys? On the heels of the excellent Saving God and the OK, but commercially successful Fireproof, Faith Like Potatoes is the latest legit slice of God-centric entertainment.
The first thing you'll notice is the absolutely stunning cinematography. Director Regardt van den Bergh brings a fantastic look to his film, capturing the splendor of Africa with sweeping shots. Though pretty vistas do not a competent motion picture make, the expert staging is the first hint that Faith Like Potatoes has got the goods. And thankfully, the movie quality is there. More than there, actually -- it's a powerful, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking story, told well, shot well and acted like a champ.
As the lead, Frank Rautenbach has a lot to do, being the heart of the film, but he delivers a monster performance. The guy acts his guts out; when he encounters a tragedy about three-fourths of the way into the film, I defy you not get all quivery as you witness his breakdown. The crying and emoting is appreciated, though his charisma and likeability are just as memorable. Here's someone who has to transition -- through Divine help of course -- from a flinty bastard to a dude who's on fire for God. Rautenbach makes this happen, crafting a character that you'll never once not pull for completely.
The story that he inhabits is sprinkled with plenty of authentic moments: trials in his marriage, speed bumps in his farming career and massive tribulations. Taken individually they may not seem worthy for a feature film telling, but when you total Angus's experiences you're left with a profound life. In fact, I'd hazard to say it won't be until the very, very end when you get a sense of the whole of the story the movie is trying to tell.
Now this is all very Christian, you know, and unashamedly so. If you tend towards the faith, I have no doubt you'll find much value in this film. Likewise if you don't mind un-diluted Christianity front and center in your home entertainment experience. If this type of full frontal faith is a turn off, then be warned: Faith Like Potatoes does not hold back from the Jesus freakiness.
Sony's DVD is an excellent one. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is very nice, packed with detail and color. In the audio department, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is active and deep, pushing the swelling score with verve. Extras: a great 54-minute documentary about Angus Buchan and featurettes on the cast, the direction, the production, the location and the music of the film.
This is quality Christian craftsmanship -- finally. Definitely worth checking out if the Godly thematic material doesn't dissuade you.
Not guilty. I would like fries with this!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG