Estupid Rules! States of Grace review part II (spoilers)

February 29, 2008 | 24 comments
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My Spaniard mission president was a puritan. “Obedezco pero no cumplo” wasn’t in his playbook. So my mission was pretty strict. Some of us missionaries objected–we were being forced to pay attention to the letter of the law instead of the spirit, the rules were mostly pointless anyway, sometimes they got in the way of doing good, etc. He broke out into English to make fun of us one time. “Estupid rules! Estupid rules!” He got us to laugh, which I guess was the point.

Does States of Grace take sides between my mission president and his missionaries? We discuss the issue.

SPOILERS.

Matt Evans:

I’m still mad that Dutcher vindicated all the MTC and CES-types in the audience who condemned Elder Farrell for ignoring mission rules to allow an indigent to sleep in their apartment and to touch Holly’s hand to express empathy. The CES-types knew the supposed charity and compassion were in reality Satan’s flaxen chords, and that within a week of breaking mission rules Satan would have the missionary fornicating and going home dishonorably. And Dutcher carried their water. Dutcher and Pharisees 1, Christianity 0. Dumb.


Adam Greenwood:

I thought that was one of the best parts. Doing good had a cost. Nothing about the film said that “the supposed charity and compassion were in reality Satan’s flaxen chords.” Everything about the film said that real charity and real compassion also opened up opportunities for real temptations. That’s the world we live in, Matt.


Ray:

“Everything about the film said that real charity and real compassion also opened up opportunities for real temptations.”
It is perhaps the greatest irony of mortality that we can’t serve God without mixing with his children – that in order to emulate Jesus’ actual life we need to risk all kinds of temptations and dangers and judgmental perceptions. Frankly, imo, that’s perhaps the greatest failure in many members’ lives – living too safely away from the deepest pains and suffering and temptations around us and losing the chance to mourn with those that mourn the most and comfort those who stand in the greatest need of comfort.


Matt Evans:

“Everything about the film said that real charity and real compassion also opened up opportunities for real temptations.”

This doesn’t work because there’s no equivalency between the good and the evil. The movie doesn’t start a conversation about the conflict between mission rules and the higher law, it ends it with a hammer. Being sent home dishonorably to face a disciplinary council is not offset by the the good of touching an upset woman’s hand, so the message is not that there are tradeoffs but that the tradeoffs are never worth taking. Within 48 hours (24?) of touching a woman’s hand even Peter Priesthood is fornicating and going home. The movie perfectly follows the MTC script: you might think you’re ignoring the rule to follow the law, but you only deceive yourself. There is no conflict between letter and spirit. That or you have ulterior motives all along.

(I agree with Ray’s conclusion, hence my extreme disappointment in the movie. It pounded a nail that needs pulling.)


Adam Greenwood:

Being sent home dishonorably to face a disciplinary council is not offset by the the good of touching an upset woman’s hand, so the message is not that there are tradeoffs but that the tradeoffs are never worth taking.

The missionaries break the rules to save the homeless preacher which is clearly presented as a good thing, an extremely good thing. The consequences for Elder Farrell’s sin are downplayed and are not portrayed as the inevitable result of his breaking the rules. If they were, he would have held her hand a little too long when he comforted her or something. Its the hallmark of good art that people from both sides of a debate can find ammunition for their side and States of Grace is no exception. But even then films also broadcast at who they want you to support and its pretty clear that we’re supposed to sympathize more with Elder Lozano’s approach, since the first time the elders really disagree is when they rescue the preacher. And, I hate to say it, but in a way the movie’s unintended message is that a missionary fornicating isn’t a big deal, if we weren’t so hung up about it. Its as if we rule-abiding sorts were saying ‘don’t squeeze her hand, don’t talk to her alone, you might end up being tempted to sleep with her’ and the movie responds ‘so what?’ It sounds like your real frustration is that the film’s main message was concerned with grace instead of with attacking CES-types.

P.S. Part I, Part III

24 Responses to Estupid Rules! States of Grace review part II (spoilers)

  1. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    The missionaries break the rules to save the homeless preacher which is clearly presented as a good thing, an extremely good thing.

    I somehow doubt it’s going to mean much at his disciplinary council when he says they also let a homeless drunk stay in their apartment, and that a week later he was reformed and preaching at the pulpit in a new church. There’s no chance they’re patting him on the back and sending him to his mission president with instructions to make him AP.

    It sounds like your real frustration is that the film’s main message was concerned with grace instead of with attacking CES-types.

    Yes, I liked it that Peter Priesthood was willing to care for the homeless preacher despite mission rules, and glad when he touched Holly’s hand to assure her that she was loved, then mad when Dutcher proved Peter Priesthood’s critics right. He pulled the rug out from us higher-law folks so fast we cracked our skulls. It would have been more interesting, and tougher to pull off, if he’d made the sin less outrageous — he just kisses her, which results in his being transferred, stilting her progress and missing the opportunity to see Carl, etc.

  2. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    So there’s no equivalency between the good of “breaking the rules” and the bad. The bad so far outweighs the good that discussion about the tension between rule and law is over. We may as well talk to mothers about the aerobic benefits of letting children play in traffic.

  3. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    You really think that the good of totally turning some guy’s life around is so far outweighed by the bad of an elder succumbing to mild temptation that there’s no discussion?

  4. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    According to his disciplinary council, no. They’ll weigh what he’s done and, if he fornicated with someone he was steward for, probably ex him. There will be very little discussion of the good he did for the homeless guy. If anything, the good he’s done and his gospel understanding only heighten his accountability. (Remember that the preacher’s only been sober a week, too. High council members have been around long enough to not take one-week turnarounds at face value.)

  5. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    OK, Matt E., but we’re evaluating the movie’s message, not a hypothetical disciplinary council. You can’t exclude the good that Elder Lozano did by breaking the rules with the homeless guy–or by taking off his shirt and tie in public to stauch Karl’s wounds, or by staying out past curfew to be with Karl in the hospital–when you’re evaluating the movie’s message about rules.

  6. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    The hypothetical disciplinary council is a good way to evaluate how Mormonism views his behavior. He’s going home precisely because the bad far outweighs the good he’s done. The high council will enforce more discipline shortly.

    “But we also stayed past curfew to be with an investigator in the hospital,” or any of the other good things he did, would get Lozano nowhere. “Yes, Elder Lozano, your rule bending did some good this week, but it also resulted in your junior companion being excommunicated. You obviously have no ability to second-guess rules.”

    (I don’t think the shirt removal is a good example because all Mormons agree that mission rules should be ignored in life-and-death emergencies. No one believes missionaries should stay in their apartments after curfew even when their building’s on fire.)

  7. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Wait, you’re thinking that Elder Lozano would get exed? I thought we were talking about Elder Farrell. Not a chance. NOT a chance.

  8. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    No, Farrell would get exed. I don’t know if anything would happen to Lozano. (First paragraph refers to Farrell, second paragraph brings up Lozano in response to your “good that Elder Lozano did” in #6.)

  9. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    (I don’t think the shirt removal is a good example because all Mormons agree that mission rules should be ignored in life-and-death emergencies. No one believes missionaries should stay in their apartments after curfew even when their building’s on fire.)

    All that means is that there’s some areas where your side of the argument is so obviously right that everyone accepts it (there’s no explicit emergency exception to the mission rule about wearing a white shirt and tie in public). And the movie highlighted those areas.

  10. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I somehow doubt it’s going to mean much at his disciplinary council when he says they also let a homeless drunk stay in their apartment, and that a week later he was reformed and preaching at the pulpit in a new church. There’s no chance they’re patting him on the back and sending him to his mission president with instructions to make him AP.

    Yeah, so what? That’s not part of the movie or even hinted or alluded to.

    He pulled the rug out from us higher-law folks so fast we cracked our skulls.

    Matt, if higher-law folks really think that breaking rules never has any consequences, even if done for a higher purpose, than higher-law folks are asses. I don’t think they are, which I why I don’t see the movie as taking sides. Breaking the rules did real good but it also exposed Elder Farrell to real temptation (which he succumbed to). One of the CES-types you hate could get just as upset at the movie if he wanted and with just as much reason, which in mind says that the movie handled this sub-theme with suitable nuance. If Dutcher had wanted to make a ham-fisted point about following the rules, he would have done things differently.

  11. Matt Evans on February 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Right. The disagreements are over things like missing curfew to be with someone at the hospital, letting an indigent sleep in your apartment, and touching the hand of a distraught woman abandoned by her family. Those are acts I was glad to see projected positively, only to have Dutcher play the MTC counter-argument with a bazooka. Peter Priesthood fornicating within 48 hours? It strains credulity.

    Except for those who know that “higher law” is just an excuse to break rules you don’t like anyway. The righteous follow the rules, and know it’s an illusion that the rules sometimes hinder your ability to do good. If you’re following the rules God’s given you, he’ll provide a way for every good thing. The unrighteous are prone to set the rules aside, believing they are wise, but they inevitably fall. Look what happened to the beach house missionaries who thought they were too smart for rules.

  12. Snow White on February 29, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I think it was deliberate that it was Lozano breaking all the rules in pursuit of the “higher law”, and yet it was Farell the goody-goody who actually committed serious sin. Lozano had his priorities in order (except for that bit at the beginning when he was typecast as “lazy senior comp”), and he could see the difference between rules that should be bent in the service of others, and rules that affect one’s salvation. Farell, on the other hand, is so hung up on the petty rules that he wouldn’t be willing to bend them to help anyone. I think Drescher was trying to show that it’s Farell’s self-imposed isolation from humanity for fear of dirtying himself by association that led to his downfall. He’s made a habit of staying away from those people he deems tainted with sin and worldliness, and so when he starts to empathize with this girl that he’s demonized, he’s unable to cope with the temptation. It seems like perhaps he never learned to separate people from their sins, and so he just put up a barrier between himself and others, and maybe this was the first time he realized that sinners have faces, too. Lozano has had experience with many different kinds of people, and he probably over time learned to love the sinner but hate the sin; he figured out how to love and help people without personally involving himself in their sin. Farell has led a more sheltered life, and people are probably either “good” or “bad” to him, so when this girl gradually starts to seem “good”, he lets down his guard and does something he’ll regret in attempt to comfort her. Those are my thoughts, anyway, but perhaps I’m reading too much into it.

  13. Jack on February 29, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Adam,

    I have to side with Matt on this point–though maybe for different reasons. You say: “The missionaries break the rules to save the homeless preacher which is clearly presented as a good thing, an extremely good thing.” Yes it is presented as a “good” but it comes across a bit irrational because we are almost forced (as it were) to believe that it is the only viable option–when we know intuitively that that is not the case. The characters are constricted by the overt goals of the writer to such an extent that they become thematic contructs more than viable agents. They are relentlessly channeled to meet a particular end that doesn’t necessarily match what we as an audience intuit from their (the characters) respective rationales.

    And so, the long and short of it is: We don’t buy it.

  14. Adam Greenwood on February 29, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Jack, I think this might be what I meant when I talked about the balance between symbolism and realism. You’re right that the characters don’t act realistically, that many times they’re acting as symbols or for symbolic effect. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and though its hard to balance with realism, the film pulled it off until the end for this viewer.

  15. Jonovitch on March 1, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Matt, I don’t see Elder Ferrell’s sin as a result of breaking curfew or letting a homeless guy sleep in their apartment, or the generic “breaking” of the generic “mission rules” and I struggle to understand how you see any connection with breaking those rules and his imminent sinning.

    What was plainly and clearly displayed was that Elder Ferrell had a weakness with the opposite sex. We saw it over and over again, with his gazing at the cute girls, turning around every time one walked by, lingering WAY too long in Holly’s doorway (alone!), smiling just a little too long on the balcony (alone!), talking with her by the door (alone!), jerking back instinctively and then holding her hand.

    Everyone has different weaknesses; this was his. When Satan saw a weak seam in Elder Farrell’s character, he rent it wide open — just like he does with everyone else. It had nothing to do with him breaking the overly broad “Mission Rules,” rather it was his nonchalance in his contact with Holly, which was related to his personal weakness, that caused his downfall.

    Claiming that the catch-all “breaking mission rules” was the open doorway to imminent excommunicable sin is not a message the movie portrayed. (It almost sounds like your argument/interpretation of the movie is “once you break a mission rule, regardless of which one, you are doomed to serious sin, and you have no further choice in the matter — you’re screwed once you stumble!”) In fact, the film went out of its way to show, in the first half, that breaking a rule here or there can create good (which I’m sure caused MTC-types to have hissy-fits). The message in the second half seemed to have less to do with “breaking the rules,” but rather warned viewers of relaxing their guards in front of personal weaknesses.

    That’s how I saw it anyway.

    Jon

  16. Jack on March 1, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Jonovitch,

    Again, I’m with Matt on this one. Farrell’s sin is so over the top that it undercuts the forced dichotomy between him and Lozano. (e.g. letter vs. spirit) I don’t buy the idea that his problem stems from an overly rigid adherence to the letter. He’s got a serious personal problem–we think. But there’s ambiguity (of the wrong sort) because Farrell’s character is torn between serving said dichotomy and following his rational trajectory. Basically, Farrell needs therapy not grace.

  17. Eric Boysen on March 1, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    In order for the spirit of the law to override the letter of the law, one must be absolutely sure that one has the Spirit. The concept of WWJD works only as long as you don’t have an ulterior motive when you ask the question.

    Should a missionary use his shirt as an emergency dressing to staunch the flow of blood from another’s serious wound? God forbid he should think the dignity of his office is worth more than the life of his brother! But if another piece of cloth is at hand the necessity is gone. Should a missionary take off his shirt because it is a hot day and he’s a bit uncomfortable? No way.

    Moral choices always involve a conflict of values. The most poignant are the moral dilemmas that pit two goods (or two evils) against each other and leave none but the two choices. This is almost always a false choice because there are usually more options available, but an artist wants the sharp focus of the two choices and as the god of the world of his/her creation we accept that to a degree. In real life with a broad spectrum of choices – and less certainty of the outcome.

  18. Adam Greenwood on March 1, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    I struggle to understand how you see any connection with breaking those rules and his imminent sinning.

    I’m pretty sure we’re meant to see some connection.

  19. professionalmom on March 1, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Ray:

    “‘Everything about the film said that real charity and real compassion also opened up opportunities for real temptations.’
    It is perhaps the greatest irony of mortality that we can’t serve God without mixing with his children – that in order to emulate Jesus’ actual life we need to risk all kinds of temptations and dangers and judgmental perceptions. Frankly, imo, that’s perhaps the greatest failure in many members’ lives – living too safely away from the deepest pains and suffering and temptations around us and losing the chance to mourn with those that mourn the most and comfort those who stand in the greatest need of comfort.”

    I haven’t seen the film and this may or may not be a good point in the comments to interject my feelings….but I just have to comment that this statement by Ray sums up how I feel about “living my religion” and that the greatest joys I have found have come from stepping outside of my safe little box and comfort zone and learning about the true struggles (and victories) of my fellow imperfect brothers and sisters. It is much more challenging to live my principles and beliefs when I interact with all of God’s children….not just the ones that are “safe” or “worthy”. I hope that someday my sins and imperfections will be judged with mercy not only because of the incredible power of the atonement, but because I was willing to reach out to others in the mercy and compassion that I hope to receive.

  20. Matt Evans on March 2, 2008 at 1:45 am

    Jon, the theory is that people fall the same way they grow: line upon line. Being cavalier about small rules leads some to disregard progressively bigger rules. His being alone with a woman was a mission no-no, and presumably his decision to ignore that rule was a factor in his downfall. Had he never been alone with her their emotional attachments would have been of a less-romantic variety, etc.

  21. Pablo on March 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Matt,

    I see your interpretation of the movie’s message (both it’s intended message and it’s perceived message) as somewhat too narrow and off track. Stick with me, though in my response, because my tone isn’t really as adversarial as my first sentence implies.

    I’ll start by saying that the movie title (States of Grace) is the most important key to understanding Dutcher’s intention. I’ll return to this point later.

    Dutcher did build in a large dose of ambiguity into the situations and characters. Dutcher’s intentions — or my interpretation of them — probably should not be limited to a simple numbered list, but for the sake of conversation, I’m going to do that anyway. Among (my interpretation of) his intentions are these:

    1) To present a series of complex scenarios of moral choices with no clear “right” and “wrong” answers. The “spirit vs letter of the law” dilemma is one of these, but only one. For example, Carl’s moral conflicts are rich for analysis and have little, if anything, to do with spirit/letter debates.

    2) To show that the outcomes of those choices are sometimes complex and problematic. In fact, as has been pointed out, doing the “most right” thing may even lead to further moral dilemmas. The way Dutcher presents the act of helping the homeless man, I think it is a reasonable conclusion to say that Dutcher wants us to at least consider the idea that helping the homeless man may in fact be the “most right” thing to do, but of course it was this very act which opened the door to further problems when they needed to get Holly involved to help with this man. Dutcher isn’t saying “I told you so: this is what happens when you try to justify bending the mission rules.” He is trying to raise questions in our mind though. What if they hadn’t helped the homeless man? That would have been wrong (by one set of standards). Yet now that the movie is over, we know that this “right” act incurred a cascade of unpleasant and unintended negative consequences. In other words, Dutcher is painting in as many shades of gray as he possibly can. He seems quite intent on disproving blacks and whites, absolutes and certainties. The fact that the original good action led to Elder Ferrell’s bad action is a manifestation of this attempt to paint grays (see point 3 below)

    3) One of Dutcher’s intention definitely seems to be to call into question Elder Ferrell’s worldview. Elder Ferrell thought he had things figured out. Lusting after girls, especially on the mission was wrong. He knew that, but it was clearly something he had internal struggles with, as pointed out in response #15 above. He grew up in a home where disobedience meant shame. Intense shame. He feared this shame possibly more than anything else. He wanted to honor his father, who Elder Ferrell says is a “very good man” even when Elder Lozano basically says Elder Ferrell’s dad is an idiot for saying that it would be better if Elder Ferrell came home in a casket rather than to come home dishonored. Dutcher wants us to see that Elder Ferrell’s father is unreasonable, and simply wrong. But Dutcher also wants us to see that Elder Ferrell holds his father in high esteem. No doubt his father is a man in good standing in the church, possibly with high levels of responsibility. Elder Ferrell recognizes a conflict between his own weaknesses and the man his father wants him to be. Elder Ferrell wants to be that man. He tries very hard to be that man. But it is evident that the expectations are externally imposed. Elder Ferrell doubts he can be the man his father wants him to be. In a moment of weakness — which happens rather quickly, but not as quickly as some posts have suggested (I think it happens over more than 48 hours, but that’s kind of beside the point) — Elder Ferrell gives in precisely because the expectations were externally imposed on him. He feared not living up to them, so in a self-fulfilling prophesy, he failed to live up to them. Elder Ferrell’s worldview was askew. It wasn’t all his fault, but it was his undoing. By contrast, Elder Lozano had “been there, done that.” His temptations were of a different sort at this point in the game.

    4) The most important point that I think Dutcher is trying to make is that we all need grace. Not just the gun-toting gangbaner Carl (who is an accessory to murder by the end of the film, even though he didn’t pull the trigger). Not just the former gang member Lozano. Not just the girl who, in a period of weakness consented to act in pornographic movies. Not just the drunk preacher on the street. But even the Mormon missionary who breaks mission rules, and even the Mormon missionary who breaks the most taboo of mission rules: fornication. Elder Ferrell broke that rule, and immediately hated himself. He felt such remorse that he no longer had hope for his own soul. He knew he would be sent home and could not bear the thought of seeing his father, of disgracing his father. His fear brought to mind his father’s words about coming home in a casket. In an act of despair, he attempted to do just that. After the suicide attempt, it is Holly who attempts to bring him back. At this point, he can hardly even look at her because of the role she played in his now broken life. She was on a path of recovery and spiritual rebirth, yet he now views her as little more than the reason for his downfall. This is of course unfair to her. His suicide attempt risked not only his own life, but threw into chaos the lives of many people who were connected to him.

    All of these people, with all of their different circumstances are in different states of grace. Some have further to go than others … or do they? Is it worse to commit fornication as a missionary, or is it worse to tell a son that it would be better to come home in a casket than to commit fornication? Is it worse to almost kill someone (but then not do it, in a supremely difficult moment of moral confusion), or is it worse to break the mission rules by bringing in a homeless man into a missionary’s apartment?

    I think the film argues that while there may be different levels of need, and people may be in different states of grace, the same exact need is there for all of us. We all need forgiveness, and we all need grace.

    To get lost in discussions of whose sin was worse, or who would have a harder time in church disciplinary counsels is a complete distraction from the theme of the film. In fact, it basically refutes the theme of the film.

    Do we not all need grace? Is not 100% grace necessary for even the smallest infractions? Then who cares who would be excommunicated and who wouldn’t? Who cares what the disciplinary councils would say? Christ is at the bar of judgment, and his standard is holistic, all-encompassing, complete, and perfect. He will hold us accountable for everything, and he will grant us everything… contingent up on his grace, which we all need in equal measure.

  22. Pablo on March 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Oh, and one more thing. I didn’t like the ending either (with everyone kneeling to reverence the Christ child in the nativity scene). It was too stylistic for me, and it was out of character for the rest of the movie, but the fact that Dutcher included that ending serves to strengthen the message of Grace being necessary for everyone. Notice that it is Elder Ferrell holding the Christ child. Elder Ferrell is at the center of this part of the moral play, to reinforce that even he — after fornication and a suicide attempt — can be forgiven.

    It seems to me that the stigma of coming home from a mission “dishonored,” with a history of suicidal tendencies would find greater prejudice among members of the church than a former gang member. Dutcher knows this. He is challenging us at the core of our culture. Let us forgive even the dishonored, for are we not all in some way dishonored?

  23. Jonovitch on March 3, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Matt, I guess I misunderstood your meaning. I read your meaning as “because the two elders ‘broke mission rules’ (in the broad, generic sense) Elder Ferrell slept with the girl,” which I disagree with, because I don’t see the one leading to the other.

    But it seems like your argument is actually “because Elder Ferrell broke specific mission rules regarding members of the opposite sex (e.g., alone time, holding hands) one thing quickly led to another and he slept with Holly,” which makes more sense, and which I completely agree with, because the one can very easily lead to the other, especially if Satan already attached some of his flaxen cords long before the situation even started — as was apparently the case in the movie.

    Side note: I’d certainly never be mistaken for a straight-arrow type, but I have had to correct other missionaries (during and after my own mission) about getting too close to girls. Even if it doesn’t lead to sleeping with them, the mere hint of the appearance of impropriety is a bad thing all the way around, and breaking those rules will certainly get you into trouble — if not with the girl, then definitely with me. *scowl*

    Jon

  24. Razorfish on March 8, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I watched States of Grace for the first time today.

    I think the movie challenges us to (re)consider many of the ironies and inconsistencies that we uniformly accept within our church culture at times. It seems Dutcher has to hit us over the head several times in the film about how myopic we can be in our view of the world. A few examples worth considering:

    A) The scene when Elder Farrell is rushed to the hospital in a near unconscious state following his suicide attempt, and one of the Elders is about to administer the blessing but gets hung up with protocol and asks “what is Elder Farrell’s middle name?” as Elder Farrell’s life hangs in the balance.

    B) Early in the film we have a dramatic contrast between “a straight arrow” Elder Farrell and Elder Lozano who, though unconventional, seems to portray the greater heroic qualities of the missionary pair, even if his tactics and methods don’t always comply with the “white bible.”

    I think Dutcher is taking a frontal assault on outward religious piety that is overly focused on rigid rules based behavior. Behavior which blinds the follower from providing real relief and compassion (eg. administering relief to the drunk preacher and whether the mission appt should be used).

    C) Return with Honor. Farrell’s dad who would prefer his son return in a casket then dishonorobly from his mission is another over the top paradigm the viewer must confront.

    D) The neighbor actress who is abandonned and effectively disowned by their outwardly very religious parents who are ashamed of her whoredoms. Dutcher certainly paints with a very harsh brush the excessively religious crowd who will abandon their own offspring as a consequence for their moral shortcomings.

    In the end, it seems Dutcher is asking for greater charity and love in whatever non-conventional methods of expression this may take form. The overly proscribed rules based decision tree of conduct and morality can only take us so far, and ultimately the heroic qualities as exemplified by Elder Lozono will only be realized when these rules are transcended by the circumstances and requirements of the moment.

    Dutcher seems to be telegraphing his own future and inner struggles he wrestles with as he tries to balance the requirements of his faith and belief system with his own spiritual journey in life.

    I liked the ending when all of the key actors in the film gather around the nativity scene and one by one bow before the Christ child as if to suggest that all of us regardless of our circumstance and background are reliant upon the tender mercies of our Redeemer. Regardless of our individual states of grace, we all are deficient and have but one source of redemption.

WELCOME

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