If you’re looking for a film that takes its faith seriously, wrestles with what it means to be human, and tackles storytelling in a realistic, powerful way, then Beyond the Farthest Star is the movie you’ve been seeking. On one side, it’s the powerful story of a young woman who is seeking to overcome her teenage angst and experience true romantic love for the first time; on another, it’s the story of a fractured family who has been torn apart by lies, secrets, ambition, and generations of weighty expectations. Roll arson, murder, forgiveness, and hope into the mix, and you may find yourself staring into the cosmos of one of the year’s finest films.
Spunky Anne Wells (Cherami Leigh) is the narrator and center of our ensemble drama about her father, the Reverend Adam Wells (Todd Terry), and a town full of broken people with secrets who need to be released from the dark and let into the light of the farthest star. Anne has emotional challenges to overcome, and she’s already tried to kill herself once, a serial cutter with a major sense that she doesn’t belong and isn’t worth it. She’s inherited those feelings naturally, as her barren mother, Maureen (Renee O’Connor), and her father are pretty miserable, too.
When a fire breaks burns up the church nativity, the reverend is drawn into a battle of power and words with Senator John Cutter (Andrew Prine), who has his own reasons for wanting to cut the reverend’s legs out from underneath him. In the process, a secret from the Wells family’s past is revealed, and the already tenuous relationships between them are further strained.
Adding into the mix of dangerous relationships and burdened hearts are several other members of the tight circle. There’s an exotic dancer who has embraced Christianity and is changing her ways, a young man who is seeking to find love with Anne, and a dangerous young adult who is abused at home. While one might wonder on paper if this is too much, the script works itself out out to a pointed place of wholeness, just not before there’s mild profanity, some offscreen violence, and serious issues discussed.
As a pastor, one of the aspects of the film I found compelling on an intellectual and emotional level was the relationship between Anne and her father. He has a strong level of expectation about who she is and what she’ll do that is grounded in some extreme (inappropriate) behavior that was drilled into him at a young age. He preaches, but it’s more about performing than it is about feeling or believing, and it corrupts his ability to be preacher, husband, and father. Anne is the one who has the eyes to see that this isn’t right, and is willing to call him on it, but her own struggles are ones she can’t overcome without help.
Honestly, there are several aspects of the film that are really, really dark, but the ultimate payoff is in recognizing that we can’t fight our fights alone. We need each other, and we need to recognize that we’re in it together. Through honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and courage, the Wells family fights for love, and that makes for a wonderful film that will have me reflecting for days.