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MOVIE REVIEW

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements/disturbing images.

Reviewed by: Tim Curran
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults • Teens
Genre:
Christian Drama Biography
Length:
2 hr. 7 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
February 1, 2019 (wide—700 theaters)
DVD: May 14, 2019
Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment

Nations that outlaw sharing the Gospel

Followers of Christ who serve lepers

What does the Bible say about GOOD WORKS? Answer

Goodness

Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment

Jesus Christ said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” —Matthew 5:44

Jesus Christ said, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. …love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also… Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. …love your enemies, and do good…expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” —Luke 6:27-36

Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action? Answer

What does the Bible say about the importance of HUMILITY?

How and why did Jesus greatly humble himself for us? Answer

Self-sacrifice

Copyright, Eammon Films and Skypass Entertainment

Martyrs

IMPORTANCE OF GRANTING FORGIVENESS TO OTHERS— In God’s sight, it is totally unacceptable for a Christian to refuse to forgive others.

Remember the parable of the master who forgave a guilty man who owed him an amount so enormous that he could never hope to pay it back? The master completely forgave him. But, afterward, that forgiven man roughly grabbed another who owed him a very small amount, and allowed him no time to repay—showed him no mercy—and threw him into prison. When the master heard of this, he was FURIOUS and his punishment was swift.

In that parable, the Master represents God. And the forgiven man represents you, IF you have similarly FAILED to forgive another, when Christ’s blood has paid your unpayable debt to God, and He has forgiven you for everything you have ever done wrong—and for your continuing failures to do everything that is truly right and good.

Therefore, we have a responsibility to be humble, forgiving, loving servants of God.

Hope

Overcoming hate and haters with humility, love and forgiveness


Learn how to be more effective in evangelism
Stumped about how to share your faith in Christ with others? Our EffectiveEvangelism.com site assists Christians in effectively reaching out to others with love and truth. Learn about the worldview of the people you meet, ways to share the gospel, read stories submitted by site users, and more.
Featuring: Sharman Joshi … Manav Banerjee
Stephen BaldwinGraham Staines
Shari RigbyGladys Staines
Manoj Mishra … Mahendra
Prakash Belawadi … Kedar Mishra
Anusuya … Mission Worker
Aditi Chengappa … Shanti Banerjee
Aneesh Daniel … House Agent
Phani Eggone … David
Aishwarya Iyer … TV News Anchor (Female)
See all »
Director: Aneesh Daniel—“Adventures in Odyssey” (20 episodes for Focus on the Family), “Peter's Denial,” “Three Wise Men,” “Centurion”
Producer: Skypass Entertainment
Victor Abraham
See all »
Distributor: Eammon Films
Skypass Entertainment

When I first saw the trailer for this film, the preview piqued my curiosity and interest immediately. The thought of a virgin film company bringing to cinematic life the forgotten account of an Australian missionary to India intrigued me. I’m one who loves little known historical data that has slipped through the cracks in humanity’s collective memory over time, lying there until someone brings it once again to the forefront. That is what Aneesh Daniel has done in resurrecting the story of Graham Staines, the subject of this movie.

The opening shot of the film begins peacefully enough with the sound of voices singing within a church, a moment immediately interrupted by the fiery explosion of a Molotov cocktail. After some quick scenes of actual footage and voiceover explain the religious unrest that has been a part of the culture of India for hundreds of years, viewers are introduced to the protagonist, an unemployed, but ambitious journalist. This fictitious character, Manav Banerjee will be our constant companion as we watch the events of January 1999 unfold in front of us. The movie cleverly weaves Manav’s story around the true life of Graham Staines—his compassionate work and ministry.

The plot isn’t complex, but does contain some surprise twists that keep things entertaining. The movie covers a little over a week of time, but recreates a number of incidents; though some are fictionalized, that lead up to the one that drew international attention to the Staines family 20 years ago, as well as the days immediately following that happening. Though the title implies this movie is Graham Staines” story, everything unfolds from the viewpoint of Manav, the journalist, who is bound and determined to catch the missionary converting people to Christianity, a practice that is forbidden by law in India, but only if coercion or force is used. I appreciated the method of viewing a Christian’s life through the eyes of a secular observer, something that effectively draws one in and keeps you watching until the end.

Material of Concern

Violence

As mentioned above, a blaze is started with a Molotov cocktail. This serves to simply emphasize the hostile attitude of some towards Christianity. The PG-13 rating here seemed like it was used more as an advertising gimmick than an actual content advisory, so take it with a grain of salt.

The following subject matter of note in this category is a major spoiler to those not familiar with the Staines story, but is necessary to include for parents with young children in mind. ***SPOILER*** A man and two children are sleeping in their vehicle when they are attacked, the car set on fire and the three perish in the flames. The shot is intense and dramatic, but cuts away so as to avoid any graphic imagery or prolonged footage of agony. An aftermath scene pans the burnt auto, but doesn’t reveal the deceased bodies. There is obvious buildup to this scene, allowing the viewer time to determine whether to allow younger audience members to see it. At a later point in the film, a flashback again shows the vehicle being attacked and torched, without any warning beforehand, but lasts no more than about 30 seconds. ***END SPOILER***

A handful of images focus on leprous people being treated. These scenes are almost entirely bloodless and quite short, but the real effects of this disease upon the flesh can be seen briefly.

Foul Language: No uses of any crude, rude, or blasphemous words whatsoever.

Nudity: There are two brief instances where a handful of female dancers in traditional midriff baring garments are seen, one follows the other almost immediately.

Sex: A married couple lie together in bed in one quick shot, but are fully clothed and just talk. A married couple embrace a few times. A guy jests with a newly wedded man about his wife with the line, “Pregnant already?” The joke is very mild. There are no scenes of kissing or any other explicit physical activity in this category.

Alcohol: Beer is shown being brewed at one point, and a character sips an assumedly intoxicating liquid in a fleeting moment.

Spiritual Lessons

A movie centering on the life of a Christian missionary should be expected to contain an abundance of Biblical material, and that is the case. I came away with many thought-provoking lessons.

Biblical marriage is exemplified by the two couples portrayed on screen (Ephesians 4:2; Eph. 5:25; John 15:12; 1 Peter 3:7).

Graham Staines and his family adopt the traditional garb, forms of greeting, and dialects of their Indian neighbors, following the Bible mandate not offend your brothers or cause them to stumble (Romans 14:13-23).

Staines partially quotes Titus 1:6 to his wife when speaking of how to deal with a culture that is hostile to Christianity. He also embodies the Scriptural command to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16) throughout the film.

Prayer is correctly portrayed as the means by which we discover God’s mind on our circumstances (Philippians 4:6-7).

Graham Staines personifies humility (Philippians 2:3) and sacrificial love when tending and caring for the leper population—obeying Christ’s words regarding the least of these (Matthew 25:40) and also notes that the Lord is the true Healer of infirmities, not himself.

One of Staines” young sons rightly mentions coming from dust (Genesis 2:7) in context of answering a query about national heritage and ancestry.

Mrs. Staines says that, “God is in control even when we don’t understand.” referring to the Almighty’s sovereignty over the affairs of men.

It was refreshing to see the way that the Indian culture still celebrated the birth of a baby as a gift (Psalm 127:3), especially with our Western society’s often abhorrent attitude towards infants and the penchant for murdering them in these dark times.

***SPOILER*** Staines” wife chooses to forgive his murderers, just as Christ commands us to do in the Bible (Matthew 5:44; Matt. 18:21-22). ***END SPOILER***

As the movie takes place in an Eastern nation, it is no surprise that false religious views are mentioned, in this case, the Hindu/New Age belief in Karma. The journalist, as a non-Christian thinks that sins in a past life are to blame for the affliction of leprosy on people, and his wife fears that complications of her birth are her fault because of a prior indiscretion. Unfortunately, Graham Staines doesn’t do a good job refuting this untrue thinking.

Perhaps the most powerful quote in the film was this one. “No inducement brings real conversion anyway.” What a truth that is! Real conversion comes from a broken, repentant heart. Inducement, force, manipulation, or even an emotional experience cannot bring us to this mindset, only the pure love of God.

Filmmaking Quality

With no background work to go by, I hadn’t a clue as to how good at story-telling Skypass Entertainment was. The strengths of this movie are the use of actual leper victims in some scenes, the inclusion of authentic Indian dialects in the dialog, and the fact that the entire story is shot on location in India. This, thankfully, prevented the creators from having to CGI any scenery or build unrealistic looking sets. The photography is done well, but, unfortunately, that is really the single jewel that shines in the moviemaking department.

Despite the addition of former Hollywood celebrity Stephen Baldwin, the acting is mediocre at best. Very little passion is displayed by any of the players. They don’t act badly per se, but lack gusto, and therefore the performances did not move me. Even the most emotional scenes are rather shallow, unable to land a hard punch to the gut. While I do give the film a “Good” rating due to the lack of morally offensive content, and its positive messages, the picture itself wasn’t anything awe-inspiring.

It was also a bit concerning to see the greater emphasis on repairing the physical state of people over their spiritual needs. I do understand that Graham Staines spent over 30 years ministering to the outcasts and sick, the movie portrayed him seeing this as more important than The Great Commission. In my pre-viewing research, I was unable to discover anything on-line that revealed the real character’s mindset on this topic. The closing statement in the movie would seem to confirm my concerns. “For 35 years, he (Staines) converted lepers into human beings.” This of course, is admirable behavior, but, in the world’s eyes, puts Graham into the same category as Mother Theresa.

***SPOILER*** After the murder of Mr. Staines and his two sons, it was also peculiar that the filmmakers failed to include any emphasis on the fact that all three now reside in Heaven and that as martyrs, our grief, while understandable, should be temporary because we can celebrate instead. As Paul so aptly put it, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). For whatever reason, the director portrayed the sadness, but neglected the hope we have of Heaven. ***END SPOILER***

In conclusion, I can recommend the motion picture to those considering seeing it, as there are just brief minutes of disturbing behavior and no other content that would be inappropriate for viewing. Just don’t expect a blockbuster or dynamic performances. Maybe Skypass Entertainment will build upon this initial film and go on to bigger and better things. We can only hope.

  • Violence: Moderate
  • Profane language: None
  • Vulgar/Crude language: None
  • Nudity: Minor
  • Sex: Minor
  • Occult: None

Official site Link to official Web site for more info

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Do you ever flip to the back of a book to find out the ending? Perhaps you are hoping to discover if the main character survives a life-threatening surgery, or if the love story has a happy ending? Reading the end of a story can bring peace to the reading journey, even though the exact unfolding of the events is unknown. When you let go of wrongs, that doesn’t mean you’re weak, you’re giving in, or you don’t care what someone did to you. Instead, you’re saying, “God, I trust You to be my vindicator; I trust You to open new doors; I trust You to get me to where I’m supposed to be.”

A feature film telling the true story of missionary Graham Staines, whose grisly murder by religious extremists made worldwide news in 1999, “Graham cared for the lepers because he was caring for Christ.”

They sprinkle petrol and set their car on fire. The car starts to smoke. Around the car, a noisy sound is heard. And in this noise, the voices of those three disappear. They become calm forever. The next morning there is the ashes of the three. The crowd had burnt all these three. While his memory will remain fresh in the minds of Indians across the globe, the handling of affairs can give us an insight of how times have changed and with it, the approach to the resolution of sensitive issues. Seen through the eyes of a fictional young journalist who goes undercover for a newspaper in hopes of exposing Staines as illegally proselytizing leprosy patients, he instead surprisingly finds a man who has given himself completely and unselfishly as a missionary to those patients. A humanitarian who unfortunately becomes a martyr and through his family shows the world what true forgiveness is upon his death. What he finds is a series of revelations that are difficult to fathom and even harder to explain, , and he is forced to make a choice between his own ambition and the truth.

All said and done “one could never underestimate the large-heartedness of Gladys Staines, who chose to forgive the perpetrators the very next day.” We are only finite human beings. We can only see the present and the past. The future is a little frightening to us. So we need to hold on to His hand and trust Him to calm our fears. And at those times when we’re stubborn and resisting and God shakes us by the shoulders to get our attention, we’re reminded that we don’t call the shots, God has a plan for us, mysterious though it may seem, and we want to be in the center of it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Raj, age 50 (USA)

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