Raised by Christian parents and amongst a large Christian community, I’ve seen my fair share of faith-based films. My biggest issue with these films back then and even now, is their lack of reality and authenticity. On top of that they’re often full of poor acting performances and have a distinctly low production quality. Unfortunately Indivisible falls into some of those categories but surprisingly still manages to hold onto some promise.
Straight out of basic training, Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) is sent on his first tour in Iraq. During those 15 months his faith is tested and once he returns home he struggles to cope with its effect on him. During his tour his wife, Heather (Sara Drew) dedicates herself to raising their three young children and supporting her fellow Army wives. Darren and Heather repeatedly remind each other that this is what God called them to do and that their marriage is strong enough to survive this. Each of them spends the following 15 months struggling to live without the support of the other, resulting in months of pent up frustration and misunderstanding. It’s only after Darren comes home that they are forced to fight a completely different battle.
The screenplay written by Cheryl McKay, David G. Evans, and Peter White is based on a compelling true story and has a strong premise. The problem with Indivisible, however, is that this premise is only explored on the simplest level. This creates hollow, unrealistic characters, involved in an overly dramatic story that is eventually solved by some sort of miracle. This is one of my largest issues with faith-based films, in general, and continues to show itself in this one. Indivisible is full of underdeveloped characters. Little to no specifics are given about our lead characters or their lives before this. One of the only personal details given comes when Darren shares a story about his father hoping to relate to a young solider on base. This little detail was interesting. It added depth and realism to his character and this film needed a lot more of that!
When Darren gets home from Iraq he struggles with the common traits associated with PTSD, which also causes him to doubt the strength of his beliefs. This is where the film could have really grabbed my attention because of its interesting subject matter. Unfortunately, it didn’t because it was handled so poorly. Instead of diving into how messy and complicated PTSD is it was handled on a more generic level carefully trying to avoid just how bad it can get. It’s tough to handle such serious topics when conversations are clearly fabricated or simply exist for expositional purposes.
Everything else about Indivisible falls into the category of could have been better or could have been worse. The performances weren’t anything memorable, the strongest coming from Sara Drew who has one particularly compelling scene. The rest is just okay. The pacing was problematic. There is a lot of setup to the climax, so much so that it felt like two separate films. So much time is spent with Darren building relationships with his fellow soldiers in Iraq. These scenes went on for too long and occasionally spent too much time with one particular character. The special effects during Darren’s time in Iraq were also awkward and strategically handled. For a film that spends over half its time with the lead character deployed in Iraq there’s little action going on. With the exception of one brief scene, you got the idea without ever seeing too much blood or violence. Instead the audience is simply told about these horrific war experiences without ever really getting to see them for ourselves. Therefore when Darren has difficulty talking about the things he’s seen during his tour, you have nothing to draw back on. This prevents you from empathizing in a deep way to him and this scene can’t resonate in the way that the filmmaker’s probably intended.
It’s a problem if a film’s bar is set so low that when it either meets or exceeds those expectations it’s categorized as a good film. This is a trend within faith-based films. The core audience gets really excited for these films when they’re at best only average. All I want is for these films to be more authentic in the way that their stories are told. Indivisible does an almost decent job with that. It’s a step in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: David G. Evans Writers: Cheryl McKay, David G. Evans, and Peter White Starring: Justin Bruening, Sara Drew, Jason George, Tia Mowry-Hardrict Release Date:October 26th Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1 hour and 59 minutes