Alex and Stephen Kendrick have established themselves as the premiere makers of faith-based dramas, thanks to their hits Fireproof, Courageous, War Room and Overcomer. Now they go the non-fiction route, serving as producers - and partial subjects - of the documentary Show Me the Father. (Rick Altizer handles the directing duties.) The film is a look at the importance of fathers, weaving together testimonials and Biblical messages to illustrate the notion that being a good dad is a godly thing. Even viewers who aren't interested in the religious messaging are likely to be moved by the stories told here. They make the film heartwarming and inspiring.
There are essentially four main subjects. Former Seattle Seahawks footballer Sherman Smith talks about his father encouraging him to set big goals for himself, and how he later attempted to pass that ideal on to younger players when he became a coach. Deland McCullough, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, reflects on growing up without a father, but finding a surrogate in Smith. Focus on the Family president Jim Daly tells a harrowing story about abuse not only from his father but also from a series of men his mother got involved with later on. Finally, there's Stephen Kendrick, who opines on being an adoptive father to a Chinese girl who was abandoned by her mother.
Interspersed with these reflections are on-screen Bible verses pertaining to fatherhood, as well as commentary from people like Alex Kendrick and Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship pastor Dr. Tony Evans. They put the subject matter into Biblical terms, discussing how God is a father to all of us, so even those with bad/absentee fathers still have the presence of one in their lives.
The appeal of Show Me the Father is in those testimonials, which are profoundly emotional. Football fans may already know the story of Sherman Smith and Deland McCullough. As someone who isn't a sports enthusiast, I did not, but holy cow, what a twist! Kendrick, meanwhile, tells the most amazing adoption story you will ever hear. It's potent enough to make even the most hardcore atheist believe that a higher power must have had a hand in it. The documentary may not say anything particularly new about fatherhood, yet it definitely pulls together true tales that draw you in.
A specific element of the movie is troubling. The job of a film critic is to review the movie, not the politics of the people who made the movie. Nonetheless, the inclusion of Jim Daly will detract from the experience for some viewers, as it did for me. Given the pro-adoption message here, there's something ironic about giving screen time to a guy whose organization has vehemently opposed same-sex adoption. (As a two-time adoptive parent and a Christian, I find that absolutely repellent. Any child with loving parents is blessed, regardless of sexuality.) Even though the documentary expressly avoids overt political statement, Daly's presence nevertheless implies an unspoken belief that only heterosexual men can be good fathers.
Again, to be fair, Show Me the Father doesn't present any politics up front. It's merely a collection of stories designed to illustrate the impact a good father or father figure can have. On that level, the movie undeniably strikes a chord. These remarkable tales are guaranteed to touch your heart.
out of four
Show Me the Father is rated PG for thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.