Disclaimer: 1) I am not a movie critic. I don't watch a lot of movies and judge the few I watch more by content than any technical concerns. Acting and filming has to be pretty bad for me to notice. Thus, the 18% rating this film has from Rotten Tomatoes was of minor concern to me. 2) I have more interest in Christian formation than movies, a preference which will show in this review. (I'm tempted to put it in the theology forum rather than here.)
Before watching the movie:
1) I read the book -- back when it was on the bestseller list long enough for me to feel obligated to find out what all the hoopla was about. I found the premise more interesting than disturbing and loved the insights offered into the nature of the Trinity and the question of suffering.
2) I read and heard multiple takes on the movie. The main concern seemed to be that it questions sacred cow theological positions of American evangelicalism. I have no interest in the preservation of such cows, particularly the ones that depend more on tradition than scripture.
3) As I headed out for the evening someone told me she read a review that says the movie is fine for those firmly grounded in their faith, but could cause a slide for those not so well grounded. That made me smile. Yep, I'm pretty firmly grounded -- in a faith that slides just fine in response to new input, an ever-changing faith based on a theology which would likely shock both the person doing the review and the one conveying it to me.
As I watched the movie it struck me: I know this story, I know the theology being put forth, and I know I'm comfortable with it. With that realization, unlike with any other "Christian" movie, I relaxed and let down my guard and just enjoyed the movie. The closest other movie I've experienced in terms of good theology is "Bruce Almighty," and this is so much better with the whole Trinity discussion.
In short, I loved it! Unlike several reviews said would happen, I didn't cry through the whole thing. The suffering was a needed backdrop for the question of suffering, but wasn't dwelt on beyond endurance.
As a Wesleyan being continually shaped into more today than yesterday, this movie was a perfect addition to the conversation happening in my own soul. Sort of like when someone responds to a topic in the NazNet theology forum by suggesting we read a 400-page book to better understand the topic and then continue the discussion, this felt like I followed a link to YouTube and am now ready to move forward with my understanding about life in general and the intimate nature of the Trinity in particular. It's one more piece to add to the puzzle.
Edit: I did start a related thread in the theology forum. This is the place to discuss what you liked about the movie as a movie. If you want to talk about the theology contained in the book and movie, we can do it here.