For three nights, starting on August 20, Giving Films’ An Interview with God will appear in theaters as a Fathom Event. In the film, journalist Paul Asher is assigned to interview The Man, an individual who has called the paper where Asher works and announced that he is, in fact, God. With his life splintering around him, Asher takes the interview and finds himself answering as many questions as he asks over three days. Powerfully, creatively, and spiritually, the film knits together the real-life world we live in with a fantastic parable about life and the choices we make.
In a voiceover to open the film, Asher (Brenton Thwaites, The Giver, Maleficent) shares his soul-searching moment that will drive the film’s narrative: “When I hear people say, I lost faith, I picture them giving up, no longer able to keep looking but that’s not how it happened for me. The more I prayed, the more empty my words seemed. They were whispers into a void. I was looking for a sign, any sign, but it was quiet.” This isn’t funny like Bruce’s really bad day leading up to Morgan Freeman’s appearance as God in Bruce Almighty, but it reveals a certain measure of the internal struggle that Asher feels. The character’s name, Paul Asher, connects both the transition of one of the church’s most respected heroes from the Book of Acts and the meaning of ‘blessed’ or ‘happy,’ an irony at the beginning of the film because the journalist is neither ‘safe’ nor ‘happy.’
Asher's trust has been broken in his marriage to Sarah, and has just returned from an Iraq tour spent embedded as a journalist overseas. He’s called by the other woman named Grace (another 'name' irony!), who seems intent on breaking up his marriage to Sarah (Yael Groblas), even while he seems intent on saving it; he wrestles with the horrors of war he saw and the questions it’s raised in his own faith, with a friend suffering from post traumatic stress. Asher is crumbling from the inside out.
When Asher arrives for the first of three thirty-minute conversations, The Man (David Strathairn, Good Night and Good Luck, Lincoln, The Bourne Ultimatum) exchanges pleasantries, seeming to know more about Asher than just anyone would. But Asher is unwilling to push too deep, until The Man challenges him to ask what he really wants to know. The Man’s answers are orthodox in nature: he tells him that the meaning of life is “to live, to struggle, to serve God, and to ask questions like what is the meaning of life,” that heaven is real and that Satan is overrated, that the Bible is the word of God understood and translated by man.
In the midst of his personal struggle, Asher doesn’t want to ask questions like “why do bad things happen to good people” because he says that if The Man is really God, that he’s not the complaint department. He engages questions about salvation and faith, and finds that The Man has dealt with things he’s never considered before. Asher is sophisticated and smart, a seeker at a crossroads, balancing the difference between what he believed and the realities of wartime violence and death. The audience’s viewpoint of The Man has significant gravitas, not fully antagonistic but openly questioning. With clever dialogue, the film balances its humor and depth, even pulling out a surprise or two, inviting us into the conversation.
But this is not a comedy, not a trite passing attempt at vaguely looking into God’s credentials. The friction in Asher’s marriage, the effect of war on Paul and the soldiers he worked alongside, the connections to the people around him, like Asher’s boss (Hill Harper) - all of these things provide depth to a discussion that others have more nonchalantly approached.
The film is powerful in ways I never expected. The dialogue is witty, clever, and Scriptural; the acting, especially by Thwaites and Strathairn, is stellar. “Faith isn’t the goal; faith is the process. It’s a lot like marriage. The vows you take aren’t the end, but the beginning,” The Man tells Asher. In many ways, An Interview with God reframes the conversation we have about faith, about belief, about what it means to be human, about forgiveness, and about our relationship with the Divine.
At the movie’s conclusion, viewers will experience an engaging panel discussion based on the film’s inspiring themes featuring nationally syndicated radio host, Eric Metaxas, faith & culture writer Jonathan Merritt and Inside Edition correspondent, Megan Alexander.