Don’t be fooled by the title: God or the Girl isn’t a contest in which temptation is dangled in front of wanna-be padres, with the winner getting the best parish. Although one of the four protagonists tries to schlep an 80-pound cross for 20 miles, there are no challenges beyond those of everyday life.
Studiously following the template of MTV’s reality docs, this Easter week miniseries follows a group of young Catholics who are torn between pursuing worldly distractions and serving the Lord. The most intriguing of the four is Steve, 25, who was making big bucks just two years out of college when he decided to walk away from his fiance and condo to take holy orders. Steve heard the call on his own, while Mike, 23, and Dan, 21, are the protgs of priests who occasionally come off as manipulative. Meanwhile, Joe, 28, struggles to make his decision independent of the considerable pressure put upon him by his domineering mother. The filmmakers also follow the prospective clerics on the road, at home and abroad (Steve visits Guatemala for a punishing missionary stint, while Joe makes a pilgrimage to the massive Vatican-organized World Youth Day festival in Germany), with results that make the conflicts more vivid and the men’s faith more palpable.
The most impressive thing about God or the Girl is its refusal to treat its subjects as weird: None of the guys embodies straight-arrow stereotypes, and Catholicism is neither swaddled in sentiment nor portrayed as an iron-fisted cult. What ultimately emerges is a series that pulls off the impressive trick of celebrating religion without making nonbelievers feel like jerks.—Andrew Johnston