Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
|Featuring:||Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Donald Sutherland, Mike Binder|
“The Upside of Anger”
|Producer:||Michael Rotenberg, Jack Binder|
|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Entertainment|
“Let in the unexpected.”
Hearts are broken. Life is unpredictable. Evil exists. Perhaps, as in the lyrics of one of the songs Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) listens to, “life is a battlefield.”
But there is hope.
At first glance “Reign Over Me” seems like the story of a devastated and fragile man who has lost his family and his mind because of the tragedy of September 11th. But with a closer look, we see this story is inevitably about the enormous responsibility being a true friend is, sometimes caring for the other more than family. The bond is never broken. It is trust and strength and love. It is Christ like in it’s devotion. It is Christ’s love in action. Even if Director and screen writer Mike Binder never intentioned his story to be this, it has the message of Christ The Comforter all through it.
What a shame no spiritual reference to Jesus is ever mentioned. God is never even hinted at as the true road to healing in “Reign Over Me.” His absence leaves a gaping hole in the middle of a story keenly devoted to emotional healing, second chances and the possibility of renewed love and joy.
The bereaved and painfully disturbed Charlie Fineman moves deftly through his life floating above his pain and loss like a little child lost in a game. Nothing is as it seems, no reality but his own. Charlie is locked into a self contrived world of video games, 70’s music and keeping his dark memories at bay. He maneuvers through New York streets on a motorized scooter, blocking out the city noise and the reality of life, with his big crazy-man headphones clamped over his ears, echoing the songs of his long ago carefree college years.
By some great work of chance his dental college room mate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) sees Charlie moving through downtown traffic one day and flags him down. Alan is ready for a “guy” type friend as he feels almost suffocated by his wife Janeane’s (Jada Pinkett Smith) need for a “buddy” to take photography classes and complete puzzles with. She is really his closest confidant, but he doesn’t realize it until the end of the film, as Charlie’s grief will open Alan’s eyes to the truth and strength of what a loving marital bond is all about.
As the story progresses, Alan becomes immersed in the tragic and often comical world Charlie has built around himself. Through their need for companionship, they spend enough time together that Alan begins to understand Charlie is a guy who truly needs help to overcome the unrealistic barriers he has set up to block out the horrific memory of September 11th, 2001. The day a plane bound for the west coast changed its course and crashed into The Twin Towers in turn changing the course of Charlie’s life forever.
Alan soon realizes that just paling around with Charlie, will not help Charlie overcome his grief and wrongly decides that Charlie is in need of a “shrink.” So Alan asks the thoughtful and caring Dr. Angela Oakhurst (Liv Tyler) to take Charlie in for a few sessions. What Alan never asked himself is just what kind of “help” does Charlie really need.
Agitating the situation even further is the sudden death of Alan’s father in the midst of Charlie’s problematic antics, difficulties at Alan’s dental practice in reference to Donna (Saffron Burrows) an enamored patient, Charlie’s well meaning in-laws, Robert Klien as Jonathan Timpleman and Melinda Dillon as Ginger Timpleman, who do nothing but reopen the wounds Charlie is trying hard to nurse and Charlie’s accountant, Bryan Sugarman (screenwriter/director Mike Binder), who just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut.
In the end, Alan Johnson’s devotion and compassion moves us with his unswerving desire to sacrifice for his friend—who’s buried under grief to the point of disappearing. No one else can see the use. No one else can make the reach. But Alan endures and ends up gaining as much as he gives.
The story is so great that it seems a shame that the script falls on so much foul language, but the intent was to keep it close to real life as possible, I suppose. “Plugged In” reports the f-word close to 30 times. The s-word follows closely behind at nearly 20. The names Christ and Jesus are abused a handful of times; God’s name is combined with 'd—n.' 'B—ch,' 'b—tard,' “a__,” 'd—n,' “h___,” “p___” and vulgar terms for male and female body parts round out the out-of-bounds word count in the neighborhood of 100. I am pleased that they kept count, because I was busy wondering why the Donna character was even written in until the final scenes, and at that, I still felt her sex fixation with the Alan character was uncalled for.
This is completely an adult film, as kids would never understand the impact of Charlie’s loss of wife, kids, job, etc. Let alone the adult themes on sexuality including mature off color jokes. Although the terrorist attacks of 9/11 touched all lives at different levels, including children, this film deals with the total shock and devastation 9/11 played on one man. It’s mature nature is something no one under 16 can truly comprehend. It is because of mature themes, be it story line or language, that I cannot recommend this film for those under 16. It is a wonderful, heartfelt, moving picture, but caution must be taken for Christian viewers of all ages because of some explicate language and sexual overtones that may be offensive.
Adam Sandler’s dramatic performance was one of a kind. He has one scene where he totally vocalizes what we all feel towards the loss of innocent lives and complete anguish over September 11th. I was moved at how many sitting in the theater with me openly wept all during this heart wrenching performance.
What is true pain? What is mourning all about? What is it that strikes the heart—sorrow that penetrates clean through to our very bones—over the loss of those we love? About the brutal cruelty of any senseless death?
Why do evil people wish to harm innocents? How can anyone endure such a loss? These and so many other questions our souls long to have answered are only found answered in the mind of God. In the pages of The Bible. The only complete comfort comes from The Comforter Himself.
Power over others was, and still is, the intent of the terrorists. The power to turn all the world to their way of life as the only way of life for all mankind, by force. Power by taking someone’s turn or by the taking of someone’s life will come to only one end: futility because absolute power is unreachable. In the end, now or a thousand years from now, it will not matter that you ruled the whole world by force. It will not make a difference what your title in this world was. But it will make a literal hell of a difference whose child you are. A terrorist cannot be a child of God, for no true child of God uses force and murder to win over the world.
“Anyone who wants to be a friend of the world becomes God’s enemy” (James 4:4).
For Charlie the journey was stormy and difficult. He was forced to shoulder burdens that few of us will ever have to carry. He was robbed of his life-long dreams, his partner, his children. His desire to pull over to the side of the road and exit from life enticed him. If not for Alan and Angela to encourage him, he never could have come back to his life in any form. If only too, someone would have given him the hope he has in Jesus this story would have been complete, the journey back well worth it. How much more to know that God will get you home, that He alone will heal your broken heart.
“I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens” (Philippians 4:12).
No one knows exactly how another feels. Our sufferings may be extremely hard to bear: but they can be used as lessons to help us help others. Our attitude towards suffering should never be “grit your teeth and bear it,” but we should all learn all we can from our personal problems so that we can comfort others, just as Jesus did. Remembering God is our eternal refuge and “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
What is God’s word to you today? It is to be strong and courageous. It is to lift up those who sorrow. The redemptive song from the Who’s Quadrophenia inspires this movie’s title. Nevertheless, I hope we remember—for the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 and all the “Charlie’s” effected by it, The Lord God, over you and all the Earth, “Reigns!”
“Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, The Lord will be my light” (Micah 7:8).
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.