The concept of “spiritual but not religious” arises in nearly every conversation about faith these days.
While watching “Same Kind of Different as Me,” I got the feeling that is what the movie was trying to be. The movie tells the story of an art dealer connecting to a homeless man.
Based on the true experience of Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear), who runs a successful art sales business and is an all-around family man, we learn early on that he’s having an affair.
His wife, Debbie (Renee Zellweger), learns the truth about the fling and forgives him, but she requires him to accompany her to the “bad side of town” to help work in a rescue mission.
Part of this desire is prompted by a dream she had in which a homeless man is going to save her and Ron.
Ron hates working there, but Debbie keeps him engaged by explaining that this is the way forward to save their marriage.
He gets more upset when a homeless man called Suicide shows up and uses a baseball bat to tear up the rescue mission’s interior window. Debbie tells Ron that is the person of her dream and she wants him to develop a relationship with him.
Finding the means of having a relationship with the homeless man proves difficult. But over time, Ron finds a way of getting the man to talk to him. He learns his name is Denver (Djimon Hounsou).
Denver tells Ron of growing up as a modern-day slave on a plantation in Louisiana. He explains how hard his life was and the losses that led him to where he is now.
Denver also tells Ron about the way white people fish. When he was a boy, whenever someone caught a fish, that person showed the fish to the community and it was prepared and eaten by all.
But white people catch a fish and then release it. Denver wants to know if what Ron is going to do is catch him as a friend and release him.
We see the two men become friends, but a huge crisis enters the story that challenges Ron and Denver’s relationship.
I want to say I liked the movie, but I found that there was a Christian undertone here that is not presented directly. It wants to be a “Christian” movie without carrying the baggage of that label.
On one hand, I think that’s noble. My personal view of such things is clear in my previous reviews: I don’t like most “Christian” movies.
But I wanted there to be more Christian faith in this film, especially because it is based on a true story in which faith played a key role.
My reason is bound up in my personal theological position that the church needs to do more for the world in need. Also, I believe we must discern God’s presence in people like Denver.
Even with that qualm, I have to say this movie will touch and transform. It is a good movie with some great performances.
The performance of Djimon Hounsou as Denver reveals much fire and pathos that will probably go unnoticed during the awards season, but his work is truly noteworthy.
This is a good movie to see with your older children, and a good movie to see as a small group for discussion.
Don’t let my bias stop you from going. I believe it will be a rewarding experience at the movies.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including some violence and language.
Director: Michael Carney
Writers: Michael Carney, Alexander Foard and Ron Hall, based on the book by Ron Hall, Denver Monroe and Lynn Vincent
Cast: Renee Zellweger (Deborah Hall), Greg Kinnear (Ron Hall), Djimon Hounsou (Denver Monroe), Jon Voight (Earl Hall), Geraldine Singer (Tommye Hall)
The movie’s website is here.