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Father Stu review: Brilliant performances bogged down by a weak screenplay

The film is based on the real-life story of Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest

  • Arya Harikumar

Last Updated: 07.53 PM, Jun 23, 2022

Father Stu review: Brilliant performances bogged down by a weak screenplay

Story: Stuart Long’s boxing career hits a roadblock due an injury. He then tries to become a movie star but his life takes a turn when he meets with a motorcycle accident.

Review: Stories of faith and redemption have been captured several times in Hollywood films —a few examples being Mary Magdalene (2018), A Week Away (2021), and Heaven Is for Real (2014). The latest entrant to this ever-growing list is Father Stu. Starring Mark Wahlberg in the lead, the film chronicles the real-life story of Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest. And although Wahlberg delivers one of his career-best performances, the film falls short in more ways than one.

We first see Wahlberg, who plays Stu, as an amateur boxer. His mother wants him to quit boxing; primarily because of his injuries and also because she cannot bear to lose another son. We also learn that Stu shares a strained relationship with his father Bill Long, played by Mel Gibson. But things take a turn when an injury ends his boxing career. Determined to become a movie star, he moves to southern California.

The story takes another twist when he meets Carmen, a devout Catholic and a Sunday School teacher who will consider dating him only if he gets baptised. And Stu, who has been an agnostic his whole life, does exactly what he is told to do. At this point, if you thought there wouldn’t be any more hardships or pain in Stu’s life, you would be wrong. Stu meets with a motorcycle accident and slips into a coma. Although his chances of survival were slim, he makes a miraculous recovery and begins feeling a call to the priesthood. But fate had other plans in store for him.

Father Stu’s life was nothing short of a suspense film filled with twists and turns, and Wahlberg essays the role to perfection. His evolution from the rough and foul-mouthed boxer to the more gentle and spiritual person is praiseworthy. He has put in considerable effort in this role and it reflects on screen. Wahlberg, who is also one of the producers of the film, has also undergone a massive physical transformation, to the extent that he is unrecognisable in the latter half of the film. Reportedly, the actor gained about 30 pounds to portray the character.

However, what hinders the film from reaching its full potential is its screenplay by Rosalind Ross, who also makes her directorial debut with the film. Though the story and facts about Father Stu are presented, as the audience, we do not connect with the characters at an emotional level. Apart from Stu, the characters of the supporting cast are not thoroughly fleshed out.

Although the first half of the film is interesting and funny in most parts, it starts to fall apart in the second half. A crisper editing in the latter half would have helped the movie to a great extent. The film also relies a lot on familiar tropes such as troubled parent-child relationships, discovering oneself, the path to self-realisation, and so on. Additionally, the scene where Stu gets a vision of Mother Mary feels out of place and could have been avoided.

Father Stu also contains profanities and a lot more violence than what we usually see in faith-based movies. And some of the insults that Stu and Bill hurl at each other are hilarious.

Gibson delivers a convincing performance as Bill in the movie. Apart from Wahlberg and Gibson, the movie also features Jacki Weaver, Teresa Ruiz, and Malcolm McDowell.

Verdict: The best aspect of the film is its lead actor Wahlberg. However, it does leave a lot to be desired with its screenplay and editing.