Octavia Spencer (‘Hidden Figures’) has already claimed her rightful place in cinema as a divine force. So why did she have to go and literally play God in this manipulative faith-based drama?
Adapted from William P Young’s Christian bestseller, ‘The Shack’ is a 132-minute-long piece of moral exploitation. It follows Mack Phillips (‘Avatar’ actor Sam Worthington), an outdoorsy, church-going Midwesterner happily married to wholesome Nan (Radha Mitchell) with three beautiful kids. But after a tragedy claims the life of his youngest daughter, Mack falls into depression and a deep crisis of faith. Then a mysterious note appears in his mailbox, inviting him to the shack linked to his child’s murder.
What awaits him there is an unconventional Holy Trinity tasked with bringing Mack inner peace. Spencer is God, or ‘Papa’, which was his daughter’s nickname for Him upstairs. She’s joined by Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and Sarayu, the Holy Ghost (Sumire Matsubara). From here on out, things develop exactly as you’d expect. Mack spends his days walking on water hand in hand with Jesus, hanging out with holy spirits in lush gardens and enjoying family-style dinners with his supernatural houseguests. Oh, heaven is a place on earth.
For a Christian film that aims to promote spiritual healing and forgiveness, ‘The Shack’ is almost unforgivably joyless and visually bland – though Spencer’s irresistible charms do redeem this overlong slog ever so slightly. At its core, it wants to crack the most timeless of religious questions: if there is a God, why is there so much suffering? But don’t expect to be enlightened.