Dan's Review: "Just Let Go" just misses emotional punch
Henry Ian Cusick in Just let Go - © 2015 - Propel Pictures
Just Let Go (Propel Pictures)
Rated PG-13 for accident images and thematic material.
Starring Henry Ian Cusick, Brenda Vacarro, Ryka Miller, Sam Sorbo, Liam Buie, Jacob Buster, Mitchell Ferrin, Lexi Walker, Nathan Lasser, Darin Southam, Richard Sharrah.
Written by Christopher S. Clark, Vance Mellen and Patrick Henry Parker, based on the book Let It Go by Chris Stuart Williams.
Directed by Christopher S. Clark and Patrick Henry Parker.
One main complaint people have about LDS-themed movies is the often narrow focus on the unique religious culture. It’s kind of hard to escape when the main players in true stories are Mormon (especially when they are missionaries), but what if the producers stripped away all vestiges of anything the resembles Mormonism? That’s the approach of Christopher S. Clark and Patrick Henry Parker, who retell the story of an LDS bishop and his journey to forgive a young man who killed half of his family in a drunk driving crash.
Lust Let Go is based on the true story of Chris Williams (Henry Ian Cusick), a successful Utah businessman and Mormon bishop whose family was struck by a drunk driver in February of 2007. The crash killed Chris’ wife Michelle (Ryka Miller), along with their unborn child, five months into pregnancy. Also killed were 9-year-old Anna (Lexi Walker) and 11-year-old Ben (Nathan Lesser). 6-year-old Sam (Jacob Buster) and Chris survived the crash, while another son, 14-year-old Michael (Liam Buie) was staying at a friend’s house that night. In the aftermath of the crash, Chris begins the long recovery from outward and internal injuries, while trying to deal with the pressures of keeping his family together. He gets support from his mother (Brenda Vacarro) and a tough district attorney (Sam Sorbo) who aims to prosecute the 17-year-old drunk driver as an adult.
Conflicted by his religious beliefs regarding forgiveness and the pressures of the legal system, Chris ultimately decides to forgive the young man who took so much away from him.
Just Let Go accomplishes the task of “de-Mormonizing” the Chris Williams story, while concentrating on the universally “Christian” doctrine of forgiving all. Williams is referred to as a “pastor.” He addresses congregation members as “Mr.” and Mrs.” instead of the standard “Brother” or “Sister.” The church building where Williams and his congregation meet even has a large cross atop the steeple. These intentional alterations to the minutiae of LDS culture are intended make Just Let Go more accessible to people of all faiths, without getting lost in a Mormon missionary discussion.
All religious aspects aside, Just let Go isn’t a cinematic masterpiece. Henry Ian Cusick (a fine actor known for his role as Desmond in TV’s LOST series) seems deliberate in his dialogue delivery, which doesn’t always successfully mask his thick Scottish accent. His portrayal as a grieving widower and single father dealing with a major life tragedy is a little wooden, if not overly somber. Cusick’s arrival at the film’s main message (forgiveness) comes across as a little nonchalant, instead of the epiphany one would expect. It’s a missed opportunity to deliver a spiritual/emotional punch there for the taking.
Even though the pacing and tone of Just Let Go trudge along a little slow at times, the movie is inspirational for people of all faiths. It’s also a much higher quality production than other locally produced movies (the film was shot on location here in Utah).
Just Let Go Trailer