Since he first popped up on the faith-based cinema scene in the Kendrick Brothers' Courageous, T.C. Stallings has become one of the faith-based industry's most reliable and talented actors with an inspiring combination of unwavering faith, genuine vulnerability, and a quiet strength that draws him to you regardless of the role that he plays.
Stallings may very well have his best role yet as Cecil, a recovering addict living in a rural community and working toward a second chance alongside Pastor Cliff Lea (Dean Cain). Pastor Lea is trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to shake things up in his small town by doing the right thing and buying an old motel to turn into housing for homeless families. Unsurprisingly, the locals don't take kindly to having their main street turned into a shelter for "the homeless" for all the familiar reasons including property values, expected crime and, well, just the thought of it all.
In the meantime, Brandi Michaels (Sean Young) is a jaded Orlando reporter who finds herself demoted to this rural community at the same time her family life is following apart and her mother is terminally ill.
Based upon a true story, No Vacancy hits all the familiar faith-based notes but does so with such honesty and integrity that you can't help but fall in love with the story and these people whose lives are unfolding before our eyes. It helps, of course, for director Kyle Saylors to have a quality cast and indeed he does with Stallings leading the way along with the more familiar names of Dean Cain and Sean Young.
No Vacancy is a grittier than usual faith-based drama, not necessarily hardcore but Stallings's Cecil goes through his share of trauma before hitting his rock bottom and starting to climb his way back up. While No Vacancy is unrated, a couple scenes in particular are somewhat intense with one, in particular, reflecting the violence that Cecil experienced and the undeniable trauma it left inside him. While this scene isn't really that graphic, it's still rather harrowing for a film that falls undeniably within the faith-based genre.
However, a good majority of No Vacancy is downright feel-good and I may very well have shed a tear or two along the way as Art Ayris's screenplay captures the challenge and the power of trusting God in all things even when it may not make complete sense.
Cain has started to make quite the name for himself in faith-based motion pictures and he more than convinces as Pastor Lea, a man who believes the church is meant to be more than what happens on Sunday and who is determined to turn this church that he pastors into an everyday church for ordinary folks. Cain has always had a gift for projecting the dignity of a pastor with a sort of "guy next door" charisma. He's ideal here as Pastor Lea.
Sean Young is also nicely cast here as the jaded Brandi, a woman who seems like her journalistic heyday is likely long ago yet who still gives hints of that swagger that is just a lot more hesitant these days. Watching Young bring life to Brandi's transformation is a joy and a reminder of some of Young's better efforts. Young finds the little nuances within Brandi and brings them to life beautifully.
One could argue that No Vacancy largely embraces the faith-based formula and lives into it. So be it. This is a true story and it's the kind of true story that fits engagingly within this faith-based meets inspirational drama structure. Why do we watch paint-by-numbers films? Because they remind us of our own lives.
No Vacancy may not play a lot of new notes, though the notes it does play turn into a symphony of heart and spirit. With sincerity and heart in abundance, No Vacancy is a film that faith-based moviegoers will love and that will challenge everyone, myself included, to care for others without a thought as to whether or not they'll every be able to pay us back.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic