Reel Time

Bending the Arc

This documentary, produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, is a stirring look at the work of two doctors, a college friend, a philanthropist, and a media mogul, who formed the organization Partners In Health (PIH) in 1987.

Paul Farmer was on his way to Harvard Medical School. He and Ophelia Dahl (daughter of author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal), who had just graduated high school, met while volunteering in Haiti. As Dahl attended Wellesley College, Paul met Jim Yong Kim at Harvard. They decided to do something for the poor through health and social justice.

With the help of philanthropists Thomas J. White and Todd McCormack, they formed PIH. For 30 years, they have worked to make dramatic changes in the lives of people in Haiti, Peru, and Africa by treating tuberculosis, cervical cancer, and HIV/AIDS. This work led to building a health-care infrastructure in countries such as Rwanda and Haiti. Two fine Catholic priests inspired and encouraged them.

The key to the success of PIH is their community-based protocol, where local medical personnel or trainees visit sick people six days a week in their homes to offer comfort, encouragement, and education. The skepticism of the medical community at PIH’s success is discouraging, as is that of the World Bank, which pressures developing countries to make cutbacks to essential services and education to pay back loans. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and PIH will not give up.

This is a film for anyone who cares about the poorest of the poor.

Not yet rated ♦ Scenes of poverty, illness, and racism.

Logan Lucky

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a West Virginia dad who loses his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, becomes desperate when his ex-wife, Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes), says she is moving from West Virginia to Virginia with their daughter, Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie), and her new husband. Logan needs to hire a lawyer, but has no money. He goes to see his brother, Clyde (Adam Driver), who lost a hand in Iraq and now runs a bar. Jimmy convinces him that they need Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), currently incarcerated, to help them rob the cash from the racetrack so he can get a lawyer.

I am not going to extol the virtues of director Steven Soderbergh’s latest heist film, but I will tell you that it is very funny. It is the cleanest heist film I have ever seen, even if the intricacy of the brothers’ crime is hard to follow. And though the lack of morality of their actions is lost on the brothers, the film is still a lot of fun. Oscar-winner Hilary Swank plays an investigator who will not quit in her pursuit of justice.

Themes of race, stereotypes, and social status transcend the story and are worth talking about, too.

A-3, PG-13 ♦ Some alcohol.

A Question of Faith

Assistant pastor David Newman (Richard T. Jones) is about to take his father’s place as senior pastor at their church in Atlanta. They are ready to start construction on a family center, and David is excited about the future of his ministry. But he is late to pick up his son, Eric (Caleb T. Thomas), for a soccer game. As they are trying to call each other on their cell phones, teenager Maria Hernandez (Karen Valero), who is texting while driving, hits Eric.

Meanwhile, across town, John Danielson (C. Thomas Howell) is about to lose his construction company and home. He pushes his daughter, Michelle (Amber Thompson), to sing at a performance for record executives though she is not well. She collapses, is hospitalized, and needs a new heart.

A Question of Faith is the first faith-based film to be produced by an African American woman (Angela White). The acting, especially by Jones and Kim Fields as his wife, Theresa, is excellent. It’s easy to see where this story of interconnected lives is going, but issues of grief, forgiveness, guilt, race, and caring for one’s neighbor are resolved with the courage of the characters’ Christian convictions and a touch of humor.

I wish the Catholicism of Maria and her mother could have been more clearly expressed. But the film’s Christian heart is front and center, and the ending will blow you away.

Not yet rated, PG • Mature themes.

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