The Shack (3 stars)

The Shack

Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer lend a touch of credibility to this faith-based project

William P Young's bestselling book arrives on screen with an A-list cast that's unusual for a faith-based project, including Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer, with The Shack's producers apparently sensing a breakout hit that may even appeal to non-churchgoers. And although director Stuart Hazeldine's drama preaches to the converted, it retains the simple strengths which made the book so widely read.

After a prologue detailing how Mack Phillips suffered as a child at the hands of his drunken father, the adult Mack (Worthington) marries, spawns a family and then loses his daughter to a serial killer. Distraught, Mack receives an anonymous invitation that he imagines to be from his daughter's murderer, and is drawn to a shack in the wilderness where he finds himself face to face with God (Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and the Holy Spirit (Japanese model and actress Sumire). Through a series of theological dialogues, Mack comes to question his attitude to his child's death, and is challenged by the Holy Trinity to find forgiveness in his heart.

Hazeldine has a tough job balancing The Shack's deadly serious plot details (child murder, suicide) with feelgood elements, notably Spencer's mischievous, rather coy deity. While it's easy for critics to poke fun at the sincere expressions of faith, the story is earnestly enough told to please its target audience. But there is unintentional amusement to be found in how literally The Shack depicts Mack's journey from despair to self-discovery, as personal trainer Jesus encourages Mack to walk on water as if harnessing a super-power.

Two and a quarter hours of wholesome platitudes may test the resolve of some non-believers, but The Shack is the kind of religious film that defies criticism. That it's made its way into mainstream cinemas already makes Hazeldine's film a success, of sorts.

General release from Fri 9 Jun.

The Shack

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • 2h 12min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Stuart Hazeldine
  • Cast: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw
  • UK release: 9 June 2017

In this faith-based project Mack Phillips (Worthington), a man grieving the death of his young daughter, receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit at a place called The Shack. Director Stuart Hazeldine balances serious plot details (child murder, suicide) with feelgood elements…