Seven Days in Utopia

Seven Days in Utopia Poster

Luke Chisholm has lived for the game of golf.  Ever since he was a little kid, he’s spent long hours being coached by his dad, who pushes him to be the best of the

best.  But at a critically important game, the pressure finally gets to him and he breaks down.  Angry and brokenhearted, he starts to drive, just drive, anything to get away.

But when his car breaks down in the little Texas town of Utopia, he makes some new friends, including an old golf player named Johnny.  When Johnny offers to teach him to play the best game of golf he’s ever played in seven days, Luke can’t turn him down.  The journey begins, and along the way Luke begins to wonder if he has been missing the true point of life all along.

The Good:

The film is overtly Christian, though not too heavy-handed or overly preachy.  The filmmakers neither shied away from Christianity, nor did they push it unnaturally.  For the most part, I thought the religion was very well handed.  Luke comes to realize that winning is not nearly as important as faith, family, and good friends.

It’s almost completely clean, with no swearing, goriness, crude humor, or adult content.  There was one rather serious issue that I’ll address in a moment, but other than that I saw nothing offensive.

The character of Johnny is heartwarming and endearing, and it’s touching to see him take this young, misguided man under his wing and share wisdom with him, mentoring him to become not only a better golfer, but a better person and a better Christian.

Luke’s reconciliation with his father at the end was nice as well.  Even as a full grown man, Luke never disrespects his father, and when his father apologizes for his behavior in pushing Luke all these years, Luke responds with forgiveness and kindness.  This was something that I greatly appreciated.

The Bad:

There is a young woman named Sarah in Utopia, who spends a lot of time with Luke and they are obviously romantically attracted.  While the romance remains pure, the two spend a lot of time alone together and, most concerning, Sarah’s clothing is somewhat lacking.  Her dresses are both short and uncomfortably low in the neck for most of the film.  I did appreciate, however, that when Luke goes to kiss her at one point, she stops him, saying “Not yet.”  Overall, I did not see how the romance contributed to the plot or the message.

The Art:

Technically, the film is very well done.  The cinematography and editing are excellent and the acting is good overall, particularly Robert Duvall’s performance as Johnny.  Klaus Badelt’s music is brilliant, accentuating the film without drawing attention to itself, and very beautiful in its own right.

Unfortunately, the department that is most lacking is the most crucial of all — story.

Even though the idea was a good one, it was not very well executed.  The acts and sequences change far too suddenly for much emotional effect, and characters frequently do things with no apparent motivation.  The apology of Luke’s father, as much as I appreciated it on a moral level, was one such action.

The protagonist was too nice to have much room to grow, but not nice enough to be completely likeable.  He also made decisions too quickly and easily.  When asked if he’ll stay for seven days, he’s not sure for about two seconds.  Then when Johnny points out that it’ll take that long for his car to get fixed, he agrees.  Throughout the mentoring he shows enough reluctance to be slightly annoying, without enough to be really interesting or realistic.  Johnny asks him to do some pretty strange things, and he goes along with them without much backbone.

The ways that Johnny mentors him are interesting, and sometimes very clever and profound, but not always.  A few left me wondering what the point was, a few made sense, and one or two seemed to have interesting moral significance.  The only problem was that after I caught life lessons in a couple of the golf lessons, I kept looking for deep truths in all the others, and am still not sure whether they didn’t exist, or I was just too thick to notice them.

Overall, I enjoyed seeing Seven Days in Utopia, though I have little interest in watching it again.  After I got through the first half quite skeptically it began to grow on me, and I appreciated many things about it.  The Christian film industry is growing in a good direction, and I’ll be eager to see where it goes.  I just hope that as it moves ahead, Christians will learn to write better-crafted stories.

I’d give this film a 2/5

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    • Jeffrey French
    • January 25th, 2012

    I must say, I found the ending to be an enormous letdown and a singular disappointment. None of the questions were answered and we were simply left with ‘does it really matter?’

    Umm, yeah, that’s kinda the way movies work people! Lose ends are supposed to be tied up at the end, unless you have a VERY good reason not to – and IMPHO, this film didn’t.

    So, did the guy make the putt, does he get the girl, and does his life really change?

    I don’t know, and that’s not because it doesn’t matter.

    /rant

    Sorry! I just went in with low expectations, had them built up during the film to the point where I thought, ‘this might be a decent film’, and then was completely…

    Never mind. I’ll just take the film’s lessons to make the most of my life, to see, feel, and trust…

    …and remember to end my own movies better!

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