There are faith-based films.
There are faith inspired films.
Then, there are films that live into their faith with such a rich authenticity that you practically forget you're sitting there watching a Christian film. While that may sound like a bit of an insult, especially when the film in question is a Dove Family-Approved film, I can assure you that I mean it as a high compliment.
There are filmmakers who "get it," and I have a feeling that Leaving Limbo writer/director Sandy Boikian is one of them. They get that faith isn't so much about what you do or say on Sunday morning while sitting in the pews but far more about what you do with the rest of your life. Faith is about living into your relationship with Christ every other day of the week when everyone's not watching you. Faith is about trusting God even when your life has gone a direction you'd never have possibly imagined.
Faith walks in when your life is in limbo, I suppose, and challenges you to lean into it in such a way that you leave limbo even if nothing else ever changes.
Based upon her stage play My Wonderful Coma and starring Mandy Brown, who also starred in the stage production, Leaving Limbo is the story of Monica Wyatt (Brown), an 80's teenager on the verge of a picture perfect future when a tragic auto accident leaves her in a coma for 19 years. When she finally awakens, a nearly 40-year-old woman relatively healthy but far removed from everything that has happened in the world since her accident, Monica finds her once perfect life in shambles and she's surrounded by a world that she can't understand and that can't quite grasp what her return means.
Simultaneously intimate, dramatic, and remarkably funny at times, Leaving Limbo takes what may seem like an absurd set-up yet it's a set-up that points to valuable life and faith lessons about forgiveness, letting go, and the kind of restoration that is promised in Joel 2:25, a scripture that radiates throughout the film's 93-minute running time.
Picked up by Bridgestone Multimedia Group for a DVD release, Leaving Limbo inspires a wake-up call by showing us how faith comes alive even through our toughest and strangest times in life.
As Monica, Mandy Brown exudes both the wonder and vulnerability of a woman who has slept away half her life and now isn't exactly sure why survived and what to do with that survival. There's something beautiful, and again frequently funny, about watching Brown's Monica experience the world around her and begin, piece by piece, to realize how "her" tragedy impacted those around her.
As Ben, the former fiancee, Elias Cecil gives a believably honest performance as a man who has grown up to be an over-protective parent obviously forever changed by one night. Similarly, Owen Williams's far too brief performance as Wallace is both laugh out loud funny and downright heartbreaking.
Along the way, Leaving Limbo serves up rich performances by Noelle Perris, as Tuesday, and Lauren Montgomery as the niece who also seems to serve as a dose of reality for Monica. Of all the performances, perhaps there's none as poignant as emotionally resonant as that offered by David Fruechting, whose turn as Monica's father led to some of the film's sweetest moments.
Leaving Limbo is also enriched by a remarkably solid soundtrack featuring music from the likes of The Reveal, Natalie Ryan, Brian Lam, Leah Hanna King, Paulina Logan, and a host of others. It's a remarkably diverse and spot-on soundtrack.
Leaving Limbo recently played at the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival in Orlando and still has another fest to go in October at Hilton Head's Kingdomwood Film Festival. Already available now on DVD, in fact I just saw it myself at a local Lifeway Christian Store, Leaving Limbo is an intelligent, thought-provoking, entertaining, and emotionally honest film that doesn't preach about faith but instead shows us what it's like when we really live into it in all its messed up glory and wonder.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic