LEVITY is an edgy, adult Christian drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as an ex-convict who’s obsessed with getting forgiveness, yet doubts he can find redemption. The movie’s rough content should have been toned down, and its Christian elements strengthened, to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
As a teenager, Manual Jordan impulsively shot and killed Abner, the young clerk of a convenience store, a boy no older than himself. Manual has spent the last 23 years in his cell, staring with regret at the newspaper photo of his victim. Although Manual believes he deserves to remain in prison for his crime, he is suddenly and unexpectedly released into the world.
Wandering like a ghost in the neighborhood where he committed his crime, Manual finds a temporary home in a community center run by the enigmatic caretaker, Miles Evans, who preaches Christ to the bums, teenagers and young adults hanging around the area. Miles gets Manual to clean the center and make sure that the young adults partying at a nearby club come listen to Miles preach for 10 minutes, in return for letting them park their cars at the center.
At the center, Manual finds himself helping out one of the young women, Sofia, who keeps passing out at the club after an evening of drunken revelry. While helping Sofia find her own way, Manual seeks out Adele, the older sister of the boy he killed. He is unable, however, to confess his true identity to her, especially when their relationship deepens. When her teenage son becomes embroiled in his own cycle of violence, Manual thinks he may have found his last opportunity for redemption.
One of the central questions of LEVITY is whether any number of good acts can make up for one very bad act? According to the press notes, the director thinks he has left this question unanswered. The story appears to show, however, that, even though Manual does not explicitly come to Christ, he has had a change in attitude whereby he not only seeks forgiveness and redemption, he also places himself in situations where he can make some efforts at restitution, no matter how inadequate they may be. Manual, in fact, doesn’t really find the beginning of peace until he learns a lesson of self-sacrifice – putting his life on the line for another human being. Thus, although Manual does not find Christian redemption through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, repentance and restitution (the other two sides of the salvation triangle) are part of his story in this movie.
Of course, the Bible tells us that our own good works cannot make up for the sinful nature which consumes us, only Christ’s work on the cross can do that. Faith in Christ’s sacrificial death not only should be accompanied by repentance, it also should coincide with a desire to do good works, out of gratitude for the Grace of God that works in us to produce our salvation.
All of the actors do a fine job in bringing this movie to life, but LEVITY would have been a better movie if its Christian elements were more fully developed. Also, although one of Manual’s problems is that there is little levity in his life, hence, the movie’s title. More humor would help counterbalance Manual’s somber disposition. Finally, LEVITY suffers from an abundance of unnecessary foul language, including many “f” words. There is also an implied sex scene between Manual and Adele. The violence in the movie is restrained, however.
Please address your comments to:
Michael Barker, Tom Bernard & Marcie Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
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(C, B, FR, LLL, VV, S, AA, D, M) Light Christian worldview of an ex-convict searching for redemption in a works-centered way but finding some answers while working in a community center managed by an enigmatic Christian preacher, with some false theological elements or misunderstandings as people debate theology; about 75 obscenities (including many "f" words), two strong profanities and five light profanities; some violence with very little blood, such as young robber murders convenience store clerk in cold blood, implied shooting and scuffle for gun gets one man shot; implied fornication; no nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking and implied use of pills for their narcotic effects; and, robbery, brief references to street gangs, lying, and criminal evades police.