Narrated by 15-year-old Anne (Cherami Leigh), writer/director Andrew Librizzi's Beyond the Farthest Star is that rare faith-based film with the courage to speak a harsh and authentic truth while never losing sight of its grander truth that does exist, indeed, beyond the farthest star.
15-year-old Anne is the daughter of once famous Pastor Wells (Todd Terry), a man who finds himself thrust to the forefront of some national media attention that blankets his forgotten Texas town. Given the chance to return to his former glory, Pastor Wells has long been driven by the desire to be the next great televangelist but, over the course of this return to the media he begins to discover an even deeper desire - becoming a true father to Anne and husband to Maureen (Renee O'Connor).
Beyond the Farthest Star is also that rare faith-based film that feels comfortable adding layers of complexity and ancillary characters whose presence becomes significant as the truth becomes woven into the fabric of the story. While one might be able to argue that the film is actually a tad too convoluted in moments, to make that argument might be to discredit faith-based audiences who are likely to appreciate a film that is both intellectually and spiritually inspired and challenging.
It's refreshing to watch a film that so successfully infuses faith into the frequently harsh realities of life without succumbing to that harshness or, adversely, turning its faith into a greeting card sentimentality. The faith that inspires Beyond the Farthest Star is an honest faith dwelling among honest people with strengths, weaknesses, bad choices and, when it all comes down to it, tremendous hope.
Todd Terry gives a tremendous performance as Pastor Wells, embodying a man whose "calling" has at times been grounded in everything but God's presence but whose essence within remains quite strong. It's rare in a faith-based film that I actually find myself flinching with a character, but Terry's portrayal of Pastor Wells is so true to where this story goes that there are moments where you find yourself asking "Where exactly is all this going?"
That's exactly as it should be.
Cherami Leigh also excels as young Anne, a young girl whose very being feels like a wounded soul yet Leigh never turns her into a caricature. There's little doubt that she's going to change over the course of the film, but her transformation is deeply felt and richly formed. The same is true for Renee O' Connor, who in one scene is so remarkable that you start to wonder if you've stumbled into a suspense/thriller. Among the supporting players, there are quite a few winners and no weak performances to speak of among the bunch. The always terrific Barry Corbin adds heft as a local sheriff, while Andrew Prine is so hateful as Senator Cutter that I'm not even sure I'd want to meet Prine himself. Shawn Roe and William McNamara also are worthy of an extra mention among the supporting players.
Beyond the Farthest Star has been picked up by Christian distrib Pathlight Entertainment. This is a good thing, of course, because Pathlight always treats their films well and are helping this fine film get discovered by a bigger audience. A limited theatrical release will no doubt be followed by a home video release. If you're a fan of meaningful and inspired faith-based cinema, Beyond the Farthest Star is a film you'll want to add to your collection and you'll sure want to throw your support to the entire team behind the film. For more information on the film, be sure to check out the website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic