The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

For full reviews, visit the Brussats' Web site, Spiritual Rx.

The Shipping News
, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, is a graceful, sensitive and morally rich screen adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1994 novel. Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) is a weak-willed man who works at the Poughkeepsie News. Following his wife's death in an automobile accident, he decides to take his 6-year-old daughter, Bunny (Alyssa Gainer), and go with his Aunt Agnes (Judi Dench) to their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Quoyle gets a job as a reporter at the Gammy Bird, a weekly newspaper.

The screenplay vividly conveys this community's quirkiness--people munch on squid burgers and eat seal flipper pie, gossip about their neighbors yet band together when someone needs help, and love and fear the tremendous power of the sea and the weather. Everyone in town seems to harbor some dark secret, but they give each other the room to come out of themselves when they are ready. Or as Aunt Agnes puts it, "We face up to the things we fear because we can't go around them."

It's a deeply satisfying experience to witness Quoyle's transformation from a doormat to a sensitive father, a caring relative and a talented reporter. Best of all is how he nurtures his friendship with Wavey (Julianne Moore), a widow who runs the day-care center, into a loving relationship that enables them both to move beyond grief (Miramax, R--some language, sexuality, disturbing images).

Baran, an extraordinary spiritual drama by Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, depicts the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran. Latif, a quick-tempered youth who works at a construction site, is angered when Rahmat, an Afghan, is given his job of serving tea to the workers. But his anger and jealousy is turned to compassion when he learns that the person he dislikes so intensely is actually a woman in disguise. Realizing how vulnerable she is, Latif becomes her protector. He even goes to jail for defending her when she is grabbed by two government inspectors.

Watching this story, we can't help but feel compassion for these people. The Afghans are strangers in a strange land forced to make do in dire circumstances after the loss of everything near and dear to them. Even more poignant, this film depicts the miraculous process whereby a perceived enemy can be transformed into a loved one. Latif's final act of selflessness will take your breath away (Miramax, not rated).

F O R  L E N T
Practicing Jesus
is an e-mail course for Lent by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat from their Web site: www.spiritualityhealth.com. Participants will receive a daily e-mail with a quotation about Jesus drawn from a variety of interfaith sources. This will be followed by a simple suggestion for how to "practice Jesus" that day. The emphasis will be on finding concrete ways to act that reveal our respect, love and devotion for Jesus. This is not a "head trip" but an adventure of the heart.


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February issue


Embracing diversity