Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #2

Re: Faith and Film Criticism

Just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for the time and effort you have put into this website. I have not read anywhere close to all posted reviews yet, but those I have read have generally been very well thought out and observant. I should perhaps point out that I am NOT Catholic, but I am a Christian (one who for that matter spent twelve years in a Catholic school!) and I appreciate the spiritual angle that your reviews take on all subject films.

I also want to commend you on taking all aspects of artistic expression into account… one weakness of many very well-meaning Christian reviewers is the tendency to cast blanket condemnations on essentially any film made for adults, or for that matter any movies that fall within certain genres such as fantasy, action, etc. Your reviews seem to be more sensitive to poetic license, which in my opinion is a gift from God in itself.

Having said that, you understand that there are things we as Christians should not tolerate. It is this well-roundedness that helps your reviews stand out. I will not say I agree with all your assessments, but I certainly appreciate them and hope your site is around for a long, long time. Thank you for your time and God Bless.

Thanks for writing, and many thanks for your kind words. I’m gratified that you find my work worthwhile on a variety of levels.

As for not agreeing with all my assessments — well, I don’t know that I agree with all of them myself, and certainly I don’t expect anyone else to! As a critic, my role, as I understand it, is not to be an arbiter of opinion, to make pronouncements on films that readers are expected to take for granted.

I do think it’s my role to present an informed and responsible point of view on a film, and in so doing to give readers relevant information about a film that may be useful either in deciding whether or not to see a film, or in helping them sort out their thoughts about a movie they have seen.

I sometimes say that the role of a critic is not that of a judge, handing down authoritative judgments that are binding on readers, but rather that of a lawyer who seeks to present a particular construal of the facts as compellingly as possible. It is the reader who is the judge, or perhaps the jury, and decides whether he has made the case persuasively or not.

Hopefully, my reviews help deepen readers’ reflections on a film, not necessarily by helping them to see it my way, but by offering a point of view that may prod new lines of thinking about their own ideas. In some cases, this may mean being clearer about why they disagree with me! Certainly I’ve had conversations with friends and read reviews that have had precisely this effect on my own opinion, and I’m very grateful to those who have thoughtfully argued other points of view, since without them I never would have come to so clear an understanding of my own perspective.

Of course, I happen to think I’m right more often than not, and I hope my case is persuasive to most of my readers most of the time. But I don’t by any means think one has to agree with a review in order to find it worthwhile.

Also, of course, I hope the reviews are enjoyable to read.

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