Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
The Last Sin Eater
"Enriching and uplifting ... what a Christian film should be."
Based on the best-selling novel by Francine Rivers, The Last Sin Eater movie is a faithful adaptation, beautifully capturing the novel’s theme of redemption.
Set in 1850's Appalachia, this is the story of ten-year-old Cadi Forbes, a young girl wracked with guilt and longing for her mother’s love. Can she ever be forgiven for what she’s done? When her beloved Granny dies at the film’s beginning the “passing bell” is rung, and Cadi is told the Sin Eater will come at nightfall to take away Granny’s sins. Above all, she must not look at the Sin Eater. If she does, some of the sins he carries could spill over onto her. But as any curious girl would, Cadi can’t help looking into the mysterious and dreadful man’s eyes. Who is the Sin Eater? Why is he shunned by the entire community? And can he take away her sins now?
Though filmed in Utah, you’ll be hard pressed not to believe every scene took place in the Appalachians. It’s noteworthy cast features newcomer Liana Liberato (Cadi) who steals the show with her fresh-faced innocence and her ability to portray a broad spectrum of emotions. Stuart Finley-McLennan isn’t the healer he was as Dr. McNeil in the Christy television series, but in this movie he’s the one inflicting damage as villain Brogan Kai. Henry Thomas is probably most well-known for his role as Elliott in E.T., but he wonderfully captures the man of God character in this movie. The scenes he shares with Cadi are some of the films most touching moments.
Definitely a family-friendly movie it is surprisingly rated PG-13, though it seemed closer to a PG. Michael Landon, Jr. himself suggests parents watch the film before showing it to young children. This is due to a scene where a man is beaten to death (we see it mostly from a distance) and a massacre later on, although shown with restraint, is still disturbing. Death is a big issue as well giving the film a somewhat dark flavor.
Francine Rivers had final approval of the movie, and she was thrilled with Landon’s and co-writer Brian Bird’s interpretation. Says Francine, “I knew from meeting them and hearing about what they believed that they would keep the Gospel at the center, which was my main thing. They really stuck to that and kept the heart of the story. I’m very pleased with what they’ve done.” The most notable change in adapting the book to film is the absence of Cadi’s brother Iwan, but the others are minor and understandable. Taken as a whole it’s clear staying true to the book was important. The small budget (reportedly 2.2 million) is only evident in the tree bridge shots, which obviously used green screens.
Reminiscent of the Christy series in setting and tone, The Last Sin Eater makes the Good News compelling. Through Cadi’s heart-wrenching journey we are gently shown what redemption is all about—love and forgiveness. And refreshingly, the Gospel isn’t apologized for. It’s clearly presented without hitting you over the head.
Enriching and uplifting, The Last Sin Eater is what a Christian film should be.
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C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.