Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.—Hebrews 12:1b
1500 Stepshas a bit of everything for everyone. A film about high school in Australia, the story revolves around Jonas “Jobe” O’Brien (Alex Fechine) who moves in with his alcoholic father, enrolls at a new school, and develops his love of running. Dramatic and powerful, the story explores the way that choices stretch us, grow us, and threaten to tear us down. With a Christian influence undergirding the story’s thesis, it builds toward a competitive and dramatic conclusion that will have audiences applauding (and wiping away a few tears from their eyes).
From the very beginning, Jobe interjects himself into the dynamics of his new school, first interceding on behalf of a deaf student being bullied on the beach by a group of classmates. Moving forward, he befriends a group of students who are considered unimportant and earns the admiration of those who come to know him. He also earns the attention of Grace (Laura Benson), which draws more ire from the drug dealer and bully (Jack Matthews) who has his eyes set on Grace as his next conquest. Whether you’re thinking Karate Kid or Back to the Future, you know this isn’t going to just go away.
But the film, written by Maurine Gibbons and directed by Josh Reid, isn’t just a high school story about romance and battling the bully on the playground. The complexity of the story is remarkable in the way that it weaves together Jobe’s desire to know more about his deceased mother who was also a runner, his father’s alcoholism and verbal abuse, death, the inclusion of outsiders, shame, the power of mentoring, grief, and the battle between faith and doubt. All of these things blend together in the flow of the film to tell a multi-faceted story.
Audiences should be forewarned that while the actual scenes don’t show objectionable content, the subject matter is heavy and not intended for children. But the film can be a powerful reminder and discussion starter for high school students (or older) who can wrap their minds and hearts around the dynamics of teenagers and the decisions they make. Most importantly, the film fairly portrays Jobe’s breaking point, when his character has been ripped apart by the decisions of others, and the way he turns to God in an explosive way.
Beyond the storytelling, 1500 Stepsdemonstrates solid acting, good cinematography and editing, and a combination of score and popular music that pushes the flow of the film along. But let’s be serious: the story is the main thing here, and it’s a powerful narrative that wraps the coming of age story of high school around the themes of the book of Job. It’s a running story, but it’s about running the race of life to win, not just winning on the track.