I Am
by Phil Boatwright

A film often described as the faith-based CRASH, I Am will be released on DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on November 2, 2010. The Ten Commandments provide the framework for this compelling drama set in the City of Angels.  A desperate heiress... A beautiful reporter... A vengeful detective... A charismatic district attorney... In modern-day Los Angeles, all of their lives will intersect, leading to profound choices that will test each character's morality and faith.  With guidance from a mysterious stranger (a God-like figure who acts as the inner conscience of each character), these lost souls search for answers, only to discover that the path to salvation is closer than they ever could have imagined.
  
I Am features the original song "Say Goodbye," by recording artist and actress Katharine McPhee (American Idol, The House Bunny), whose corresponding music video is exclusively on the DVD.  In addition, the film features "Salvation is Here," a song by widely respected Christian music artist Travis Ryan, who is renowned as a musician, worship leader and songwriter.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I feel for filmmakers attempting a spiritual theme or a message of salvation within their plotlines. It not only takes a deft movie-making agility, but the company has to balance dramatic story with spiritual insights, a not so easy task. That said, there are as many spiritual sensibilities as there are Christian denominations, and it has been my experience that even a poorly made "Christian" film reaches some while merely annoying others. You can see how this would impede the Christian film critic's job. He does not want to dissuade someone from viewing it, lest the Holy Spirit use the film to plant a seed. But often I find members of the Christian media supportive of mediocrity simply because of the filmmaker's intent – that and the fact that it is dirty-word-less.

As one who examines the art of moviemaking, I can only give my opinion and it's this: I found I Am ponderous. While the film takes its thematic lead from Crash, I Am lacks the emotional drive of the 2005 Oscar-winner. Whereas Crash was provocative and meditative, I Am is merely darkly lit, depressively themed and often blandly performed. Complete with a stylized bouncing/weaving hand-held camera, I assume meant to simulate our nervous system, and the insidious background score, strummed by nerve-twitching electric guitars and laden with preachy music video messages, the production takes on the vapid feel of an MTV video. 'Course, as I said, that's just my opinion.

Though I Am may reach some, I would instead recommend the reading of Exodus 20. First, ask yourself, "Do I believe the Bible to be God's inerrant Word?" Once you get that clear in your mind then study His Ten Commandments.
 
The DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $22.98 U.S. 
Rated: PG-13 for thematic content.
Total Run Time: 89 Minutes 
Closed Captioned:  Yes

Allow me to suggest a few alternatives now on DVD: Places in the Heart. (1984). A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the '30s Depression. Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film this buff has ever seen. A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven when his wife, moved by the pastor's sermon, takes her husband's hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ's love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won't give that one away. Trust me, it's powerful! Rated PG (some mild language, implied adulterous affair – but it furthers the story and it is not explicit).

The Apostle (1997). This perceptive drama, written, directed and starring Robert Duvall, never condescends, nor is it antagonistic toward people of faith while telling its story of a good but imperfect man's redemption. PG-13. I found nothing offensive for exploitive purposes. The implied adultery, its one violent scene, the reverend's faulty nature, and a couple of mild expletives serve to further the story rather than shock us or malign the ministry.