“Father Stu’s Miracle” is a story of fathers and sons, including those from Heaven, and their call

It opens this week in Spain The Miracle of Father Stufilm of plural authorship based on the true story of the priest and ex-boxer Stuart Long.

On the one hand, the leading actor is Mark Walhberg, who is the one who insisted that the film be made and who has put a good part of the money. The other personality behind this story is Mel Gibson, who plays Stu’s surly father and that seems to be behind many winks and even spiritual symbolism in the film. Lastly, we have Rosalind Ross, who is the screenwriter -veteran- and director -for the first time-, in addition to being Gibson’s sentimental partner for 8 years, with whom they have a common son. The first two are Catholics of those who pray, go to mass, sin and confess (that is, Catholics) but Rosalind is not Catholic.

Watching the film one has the feeling that there are 4 different minds behind it: those of the three filmmakers, and that of the real father Stu, who died years ago, but through this story he achieved his goal of reaching Hollywood. There is affinity between these four minds, but even so, so many contributions affect the rhythm with some imbalances, especially in the last third of the film.

With touches of humor and good country music, it is a story about parents and children, including the Father in Heaven and the children called to Heaven. Also of parents and children who learn to love each other from the transforming experience of vulnerability and faith. It can help reflect on the vocation (priestly, married or family). There are no scenes really unsuitable for minors, but neither children nor adolescents will understand the film; its themes are adult and serious.

The True Story of Stuart Long

[No lea esta parte si no quiere conocer la historia real en la que se basa la película]. Stuart Long He died in 2014 at the age of 50 from a degenerative disease. He was a priest for 7 years, much of it in a wheelchair, accompanied by parishioners from Montana and other sick people. Before, it was many other things. For a start, an injured boy: when he was 9 years old, his 5-year-old brother died. The film partially picks up this wound caused by the absent brother and son in the family.

Mark Wahlberg as Stu Long during his time with the police

Mark Wahlberg as Stu Long during his time with the police.

Muscular and in his twenties, he was a football player, wrestler, and later a boxer with professional ambitions. He had a great sense of humor, he attracted people, sometimes he convinced themother times he simply won arguments with stubborn smiling insistence. For him, a dialogue was similar to a jovial combat. He sometimes drank too much and got into fights. Confident in his charm and his own strength, he tried his luck in Hollywood.

He had been raised as a child to believe in God, in his own way. Her father was baptized, and her mother sometimes believed, but it was not a religious family. They had quit a couple of Protestant churches for parochial politics and knew nothing of Catholicism.

Stu met a catholic girl. He survived a motorcycle accident and she introduced him to Catholic and parish life. He sincerely accepted the faith, hoping to marry his bride in the church. But when hehe was baptized at the Easter Vigil of 1994, at the age of 30, the unexpected happened: he was assailed by the conviction that God was calling him to be a priest. For 4 years he pondered it, teaching at a Catholic school, getting a degree at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, spending time with the Franciscans of the Renewal…

Stuart Long on the day of his ordination, already struck down by illness

The real Stuart Long on the day of his ordination, already struck down by illness. He would be a priest for 7 years, he would die in 2014.

Finally, at the age of 34, Despite his peculiar past, the Church accepted him as a seminarian. At the seminar his degenerative disease was detected. Despite everything, he was ordained a priest. First in a parish, then in a rehabilitation and sick center, Stu was a confessor and counselor that with his courageous strength, unwavering faith and joy in serious illness he inspired many, and connected deeply with each person he dealt with. With his approach to the faith, he also brought his parents to reconciliation with each other and with God, and with the Catholic Church.


Mark Wahlberg as the young Stu who didn’t know anything at mass, because of funny scenes.

Priest friends told this story to Wahlberg, who investigated it. “I found it so inspiring and comforting I couldn’t find a reason not to do the movie,” the actor said.

Also Mel Gibson was seduced by this family and faith story. He spoke several times on the phone with Bill Long, Stu’s father. In the film, the father is much more atheist and distant from the family than he really was, although it is true that he was bitter with religious people and because of his work he spent long periods away from home.

A movie about being a father

Mel Gibson sees Stu’s story as one of a person who changes spiritually, but also the fight “that we all have, the fight between the ‘I’ and the ‘Not me‘”.

The other big theme Gibson points out-probably the one that gives him the most hope-is the teaching that “It’s never too late to change. The character I play – Stu’s father – decides very late in life that he’s going to be a good father, and that opens up a whole new experience for him.”

Perhaps unwittingly, the filmmakers have achieved a film that is very focused on the mystery of fatherhood, precisely in an anti-fatherhood era. It is more evident when contrasted, for example, with the absence of fathers in the new Marvel Doctor Strange movie: many ‘mothers’, but the only father must die, warning that his wife is enough to raise children. In Father Stuwe see that no one is left over: neither mothers, nor fathers, nor priests, nor good girlfriends, nor Jesus -who appears as a friend who tells you uncomfortable truths- nor the Virgin, which is the vision of pure love, at once close and unattainable, that seduces a tireless conqueror like Stu.

Stu, what is it? impulsive and quite irresponsible, he will become a father. His father, Bill, will also learn to improve, to care, and will heal the wounds he caused. The rector of the seminary, he will also grow up accepting a complicated ‘son’ like Stu. The rigid and punctilious seminarian, who entered under pressure from his earthly father, not out of love for the heavenly Father, will also recognize the wounds of bad paternal dependence.

Learning to discover God as a good Father, even in tribulation, is part of the film. Without the recognition of these special paternity, the film is not understood.

When tough guys surrender to God

Mel Gibson has stated that hehe film delves into “the mystery of suffering. And the need to stop depends so much on you, and put it in the hands of someone bigger. ” Stu himself explains that he starts from a youthful resentment: “God didn’t have time for me”.

We need an hour and a half of a strong, driven, confident, insistent, muscular Stu… to understand what it means for him to give up his own strength to trust only God’s. Probably, the same thing has happened to Mel Gibson and continues to happen to him. When the police stop Stu for drinking in the street, or driving drunk, and get into a fistfight with them, it’s hard not to remember that Gibson has been involved in similar incidents. In a scene next to the patrol car, a statue of the Sacred Heart, with arms ready to embrace, offers us a more effective authority.

We remember that Gibson is a “tough guy” in movies and in real life. we see him as Bill, sour and angry machinery driver, and with a gun, and makes us think of Mad Max and their crazy pots. But after several falls, Gibson and his characters understand that only in God is there true strength.

This preaching is credible when preached by the strong. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t dig deeper into Stu as a counselor, reducing him to a sermon and a visit to prisoners. In any case, this transformation is expressed by Bill: we know him as possessor of a pistol, but later we will see him with a rosary, a more powerful weapon.

A good and sincere catholic bride

Before we get to those teachings, viewers enjoy the optimistic cheek of Stu looking for a job and trying to flirt with Carmen, the Mexican catechist. She is played by the Mexican Teresa Ruiz, who in ‘Narcos: Mexico’, on Netflix, she played the very dark Isabella Bautista. Here, on the other hand, she is all light, sweetness and firmness before Stu.

The actress explains that the filmmakers couldn’t actually find Stu’s real girlfriend from his youth, and had to work only with an audio recording of the priest saying: “There was a girl, her name was Carmen, I was very much in love with her. She was Mexican and we were getting married. It was very hard to leave her.”

Teresa Ruiz explains that to create her character she was inspired by so many other similar girls she knows, “kind and generous, immigrants”. One gets the sense that a young Hispanic female character is spared her life and allowed to be a good and sincere Catholic. Could Hollywood today allow that to a young blonde Anglo-Saxon? Even a red-haired Irish woman would be allowed to be only a sociological Catholic, not a sincere and practicing believer (last test, Ladybird).

Teresa Ruiz plays Carmen, Stu's Mexican girlfriend.

Teresa Ruiz plays Carmen, Stu’s Mexican girlfriend; it seems that his insistence and friendliness, and her willingness to explore faith, convinced her.

The film benefits from great country music as well as touches of humor in the first half that elicit hearty laughs from viewers.

There is a criticism – also very Gibsonian – of corrupt gay filmmakers who ask for sex in exchange for offering papers. No one else dares to denounce something like this in the cinema lately.

Another thing that you won’t see in any other movie is a series of normal, non-traumatic scenes of student life in the seminary: sports, studies, prayer, sacraments… When was the last time that an American film reflected something like this with normality?

the mystical scenes

It is worth commenting on the mystical scenes of the film. Are they the result of alcohol? Hallucination from the accident? Each viewer decides. They make you think of The passion, another realistic film, almost costumbrista in its first part, in which the supernatural suddenly breaks out in scenes of strange symbology. Here they are celestial symbols but not immediately obvious.

Stu was good at making friends in bars over drinks. Here she will make a contact with the best Friend, although it can be annoying that she seriously questions us. Could it happen to any of us? He can be very contrarian. There is also a Marian scene, which can unsettle us as much as Stu. Is that Maria a juvenile version of her mother? Then we return to this valley of everyday life, with its tears, but also with unexpected joys.

Nature and hope at the end

The end of the film gives the impression of accelerating the story, as if wanting to finish (it has been almost 2 hours). For the first time, the camera stops to show us nature, the beauty of the Montana desert, the rainbow. Even if the van breaks down, there is beauty in being walkers towards the house of God: this is how Israel and the Church were forged.

The reconciliation between Stu’s parents is not explained in detail, but we see the effects. The final sensation of the film is to make us think that if God could act in them, in Stu and his family, even so late, he can also act in us.

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