Cast: Lindsay Pulsipher, Makenzie Moss, Andrew W. Walker, Kim Delaney
Director: Harold Cronk
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: God Bless the Broken Road tells the story of a young mother who loses her husband in Afghanistan and struggles to raise their young daughter in his absence. The film combines elements of faith, country music, and stock car racing while paying tribute to those who serve in the United States Military.
Faith-based films have had a relatively interesting run so far in 2018. On one end, you have the Pure Flix films which pander in the worst ways possible and go out of their way to only cater to their intended audience. On the other hand, films like I Can Only Imagine and Paul Apostle of Christ were released, and while they have their rough patches, they have moments or elements that showcase that they are relatively good movies. So, with these things in mind, where does God Bless the Broken Road lie on this spectrum? While there are emotional moments that show us that this had the ability to be an above average movie, and inconsistent story and preachy message leave God Bless the Broken Road on the lower end of the scale for Christian films this year.
The story follows Amber Hill (Pulsipher), a mother whose husband was killed in Afghanistan and she is left to raise her young daughter Bree (Moss) all by herself. As she struggles with that responsibility, she must come to terms with the events that lead up to this point as well as how her faith plays a role in her life. Starting off with the acting, I was surprised with how Moss handled herself in a role that at moments was pretty intense for someone so young. Not only does she have almost all of the best jokes from the movie, but she combines those with scenes that show the devastation that losing your father at a young age can do to someone. Very few child actors can perform at that level consistently in a major role, so Moss could be a star in the making if she keeps up performing at that level. Outside of Moss though, the acting is pretty generic. Most of the less shown actors give very run-of-the-mill performances, and Pulsipher is not exactly elite in the lead role. She has moments that actual generate some sort of emotional response from the audience, but for the most part she is bland and predictable. This may be in part caused by the stupid decision-making that Amber makes regarding her finances which it very difficult to support her and want her to get through her financial woes. While these are shown to display just how desperate Amber is, she tends to let pride and lack of knowledge get in the way of her own success. Outside of the characters, the story feels very bloated, and you can tell because it feels unnecessarily long at 111 minutes. The story of Cody (Walker), a race car driver sent to a small town to get his career back on track, does not seem to have a real purpose other than to give Amber a new love interest. We learn nothing about Cody and what traits brought him there in the first place, and while Walker is solid in the role, the character needed some severe retooling if it ever wanted to make a lasting impact. On the other side, some of the characters I wanted to learn more about and thought were interested are the ones we saw less of. We see various scenes of Mike Nelson (Arthur Cartwright), who served with Amber’s husband in Afghanistan and is dealing with the side effects of his time in the military. I would have enjoyed learning more about his background and how he has suffered since getting discharged, but we never got that and instead got the unnecessary race car drive plotline which really had no point from the beginning. Regarding the rest of the story, it is a very basic story and you can see almost all of the so-called, “twists,” coming as soon as the characters or items are introduced. The main thing this film will be remembered for is how it handles the element of faith and tragedy. The overarching message of this film seems to be if you believe in God you can get through anything. If you are a viewer who believes in God, this message seems to be right up your alley, but non-believers will be turned off by the film’s presentation. The thing that made a film like I Can Only Imagine so successful is that while the main character believed in God, he had other ways of dealing with his issues. This is where a film like God Bless the Broken Road can learn, as it tends to present religion as the only way to overcome life’s burdens. While it does not do it as much as the God’s Not Dead series, it still shows that the film wants to only cater to its intended audience and not try to reach out to anyone outside of that.
Overall, while there are elements of a decent movie are present, the film was weighed down by too many poor decisions from a directing and writing standpoint that hold it back from reaching its true potential. I give the film credit for donating a portion of its profits to charities that assist families of veterans, but that does not magically make it a better movie. Regardless of the good intentions, this film completely underutilized its premise and instead went for something more cookie-cutter and palpable to its targeted audience.
Overall Score: 3.5/10