Eli Daughdrill's 'Faith' Eschews Faith-Based Formula to Portray Authentic Crisis of Belief

Chris gets ready for funeral
Brian Geraghty as Chris in Eli Daughdrill's FAITH.

In the past 15 years, movies about Christians dealing with life's ups and downs have been the property of the faith-based film industry. These films, made by Christians, for Christian audiences, care less about the story and more about the message the movie sends. Eli Daughdrill's new film Faith eschews the faith-based formula and dares to make a film about a Christian man and the challenges he faces that feels refreshingly like a story instead of a sermon. The lack of firm conclusions leaves the viewer with the opportunity to wrestle with the themes it presents.

Chris (Brian Geraghty; The Hurt Locker), a California farmer and devout man of faith has grown up in a Christian household, and his life consists of working the land and attending weekly services at his home church. He and his wife Carol (Nora-Jane Noone; Brooklyn), a practicing Catholic, are parents to one son, teenaged David (Aaron Guest). Like many parents of teenagers, Chris' relationship with David is less than ideal. They argue about David's church attendance and Chris often loses his temper at what he views as a lack of respect from his son. As we come to discover, mental illness is part of the family DNA, and each member of the family deals with their conflicts and struggles separately, instead of as a unit. When tragedy strikes the family, Chris struggles to find a foothold, and the faith and the God he always professed belief in seem to offer no comfort. As his church family and father try to counsel him, Chris has to decide where he will go during his season of mourning. 

Chris in his truck
Brian Geraghty as Chris in Eli Daughdrill's FAITH.

Eli Daughdrill's feature-length directorial debut may unsettle viewers expecting the usual white-washed faith-based story, even though the scenarios that it depicts may feel all too familiar to those raised in the church. But one certainly doesn't have to be a Christian to relate to Chris. Chris and his wife don't worship as a couple; they worship separately and it's implied that their differences have been a source of conflict in the past. Chris' parenting techniques leave something to be desired, and his problems aren't all resolved in a flash because he prays a certain prayer.

Most compelling of all, the story neither promotes nor disparages the Christian faith as a way of life. Viewers witness Chris worshipping at his church, the pastor coming to offer comfort, and an authentic intervention where men come to confront Chris about the choices he is making. Chris appears to go along with people when they confront him but his true interior thoughts on matters are left unclear. His eyes give nothing away, and there's no true conviction behind many of the words he speaks. Though he nods his head in assent and assures his loved ones that he has seen the light, Chris' stoic nature leaves viewers wondering as to his true feelings. Often he retreats to the fields he works or in the beer he realizes can numb some of his pain.

Chris on his farm
Image from Eli Daughdrill's FAITH.

Geraghty gives a convincing role as a stoic man of faith who struggles to make genuine emotional connections with his loved ones. Noone has little time on the screen, but she manages to give Carol emotional weight whenever she graces the screen. Although Iddo Goldberg as Pastor Vann is given the next highest screen credit, Thomas Francies Murphy (12 Years a Slave) as Edgar, Chris' stern father, makes a far greater impression as an influential presence in Chris' life. The pastor tries to reach Chris, but it's not until Edgar joins the effort that Chris takes notice and action.

Cinematographer Rich Hama and production designer Gladys Rodriguez do impressive work showing the farmland and town that Chris and Carol call home. Such scenes allow viewers a moment of repose to process the grief and loss depicted and experience first-hand the comfort Chris appears to find from being in nature. His peaceful affect during these moments contrasts sharply with the trapped look he adopts when attending a church service. A few of the scenes shot in the church distract from the story because the congregants are obviously singing a different song from the one we hear. But that only lasts a moment.

Pastor Vann prays for Chris
Iddo Goldberg as Pastor Vann in Eli Daughdrill's FAITH

Viewers looking for an authentic portrayal of an Evangelical man dealing with a challenge many families face need look no further. Rather than present easy answers or conclusions, the film offers representation of a Christian in crisis in a way that feels authentic, refreshing, and uncomfortable. Whether it will find an audience is hard to say, even though it definitely fills a gap.

Release Info: Available to watch via streaming and digital on November 27, 2020

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5

Faith poster