Let There Be Light

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Let There Be Light
"One doesn't need to stay with Sol intellectually to connect with him emotionally and root for him to reach a happier, less destructive place in life."

Jesus loves you. God is gracious. Everything is part of a divine plan. these are all pretty tough things to hear if, like Sol (Kevin Sorbo), you've lost a child to cancer. Some people, like our hero's ex-wife Katy (played by the Hercules star's real-life wife Sam Sorbo), find solace in their faith, but for others it becomes impossible to believe in the idea of a benevolent God. Sol, with the zeal of the converted, has gone to another extreme and become a passionate spokesperson for atheism, delivering to an eager audience in stage shows that are really more performance art than debate, tearing into religious opponents who barely get a chance to speak and have woefully under-developed rhetorical skills. it's a career than has proven lucrative but he spends the money trying to kill his pain with alcohol, and it's not just his remaining Christian friends who are worried about him. This doesn't seem like a way of life he's going to survive.

Indeed, he doesn't. The combination of alcohol, talking on the phone and seeing how fast a car can go leads to him making abrupt contact with a wall and being clinically dead for four minutes before paramedics manage to revive him. During this time, he wanders through a clumsily photoshopped tunnel of memories and meets his dead boy, who pronounces the title of the film with as much authority as a child his age can muster. He wakes up, promptly discharges himself and goes back to the bottle, but not before being beset by a gaggle of journalists all intent on finding out whether or not he had visions of something beyond death.

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Well, has he? There are plenty of reasons why he might have been hallucinating. This film is a little smarter than many of its ilk and doesn't try to deny that. To do so would be beside the point. Sol doesn't undergo a sudden, dramatic conversion. This is just one step on his journey - and real or imaginary, his experience is something that he needs in trying to come to terms with the death of his son.

It's this more complex narrative that is the film's strength, together with Sorbo's natural charisma (particularly effective when Sol is at his most snide and unpleasant) and considerably higher production values than many Christian films. it's let down by occasional leaps of logic whose flimsiness is all the more apparent because of the solidity of the wider narrative. One doesn't need to stay with Sol intellectually however, to connect with him emotionally and root for him to reach a happier, less destructive place in life, whatever it takes for hi to do so. Concerns about how this might affect other people are duly addressed without the scriptwriters making the story feel leaden by trying to solve them. The only note that really rings false is his publisher's reaction to his conversion - it doesn't take a genius to recognise the money-making potential of it.

There are other problems. Said publisher is a twee caricature. Kevin Sorbo's ego comes into play at times in cringeworthy ways, such as when Sol's son gasps in awe at a basketball shot we never actually see or when Sol and Katy hit on the big idea of showing the world how many Christians there are by adopting a ritual practised by Pagans for centuries with no apparent awareness of this or of the mixed messages it will send. Some of the husband and wife scenes are mired in sentiment, their real emotional impact diminished as a result. There are also some running jokes about Sol's shopping habits that are just not as funny as somebody must have thought.

As a critic who has also been dead but experienced no visions whatsoever in the process, I remain unconvinced by the excitement generated around an experience that's really not all that uncommon in this day and age, but if you're willing to suspend disbelief in that regard, most of the story works well enough. There are times when it doesn't seem quite sure where to pitch its arguments - theologians have long since resolved many of the points of contention treated here as if they were eternal mysteries - but Christian viewers will still be pleased to see a film that stands up fairly well alongside mainstream output and many non-believers will also enjoy seeing evangelical atheist Sol rethink this behaviour. His motto, 'Party on!' is clearly pilfered from Bill S Preston Esquire and Ted' Theodore' Logan but he's forgotten the important bit: be excellent to each other.

Reviewed on: 19 Apr 2019
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Let There Be Light packshot
An atheist goes through a near-death experience in a car accident and decides to convert to Christianity.

Director: Kevin Sorbo

Writer: Sam Sorbo, Dan Gordon

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo, Daniel Roebuck, Donielle Artese, Gary Grubbs

Year: 2017

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

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