A Successful Modern Adaptation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Format: DVD, 105 minutes
Starring: Jason Burkey, Robert Davi, John Diehl, Dave Blamy, Zoe Myers, Johanna Jowett Co-Starring: Edie McClurg with Rusty Martin & Robert Amaya
About the Movie
A Long Way Off retells the timeless parable of a father’s unconditional love. Tempestuous young Jake tries to escape the duties of the family business by leaving his home and taking his dreams to the big city. Far from the wise words of his father, Abraham, Jake is finally free to live the high life that he’s always wanted, trading the traditional values of his upbringing to revel in every temptation that money can buy. Just when Jake thinks the world is his playground and every day offers another enticing opportunity, he must come face to face with the consequences of the life he’s chosen.
Jake learns that while it sometimes takes losing everything to realize/appreciate what you left behind, a son’s mistakes can never outweigh the grace of a father’s forgiveness.
A Long Way Off quickly establishes its characters and story in a way that feels natural while making it evident that this is a retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jason Burkey (October Baby) convincingly portrays impatient, self-centered Jake who bristles under authority and thinks newer is better. He’s so lazy that he steals his brother Seth’s lunch out of the refrigerator to avoid making his own. And he’s so headstrong and cocky that when he prepares to leave home with his share of the inheritance, you’re only inches away from muttering “good riddance” under your breath, as you imagine Seth might. But thanks to a quietly insistent performance from John Diehl as Jake’s father Abraham, you try to see Jake through a more loving lens.
As a parting gift, Abraham gives Jake a watch that belonged to his grandfather. It’s timeworn so it holds little more than sentimental value, but it’s still in perfect working order. Notably, the first extravagance Jake procures when he reaches the big city is a lavish watch. It’s time he holds in low regard, thinking that he can quickly earn more wealth and increase his inheritance, thereby proving his own worth and disproving his father’s time-honored ways. Little details like this are where the film excels — showing rather than telling us how Jake finds more value in material wealth than family.
Another strength worth mentioning is the creative insertion of voices — on his truck radio as he’s driving away from home, on the television news channels in his hotel suite, and even on the book jackets at a book fair Jake attends with Summer, a friendly barista from the local coffee shop — that serve as morality, or the voice of God, warning of the emptiness and deceit of temptation, wealth, and sin. On his drive, Jake flips the channels mindlessly until he hears something a little more hedonistic. In his hotel suite, it appears he’s somewhat more willing to listen, though he’s still clearly convinced that he can’t lose.
I’ll admit that I lost engagement somewhere in the middle. If the film has a weakness, it’s that it so faithfully brings the parable to life that we can predict the outcome. Side plots like Jake’s relationship with Summer don’t have room to grow, in large part because they are additions to the original narrative. It’s hard to watch someone implode, and because we know how the story ends, we spend much of the film waiting for everything to blow up in Jake’s face. And when it does, he’s quickly destitute, hungry, and homeless. Then, just like the Prodigal Son in the biblical account in Luke, Jake ends up working on a pig farm. While in the bible the prodigal comes to his senses and independently realizes it’s time to go home, Jake gets a helpful nudge from a fellow homeless man and pig farmer named Al.
The story of the prodigal has always been as much about the father as the son. The film is no different. If you are left wanting anything, it would be this: to know more about this loving, patient father who irregardless of his son’s squandering of his wealth, not only joyfully and gracefully welcomes his home, but openly celebrates him before the world with a party and a feast! The film awakened my curiosity about Jake’s loving father, and since it’s based on a parable which illustrates our Heavenly Father’s merciful love for us, sinners and saints alike, it ultimately leads back to God. In that, the film is a resounding success.
— Dawn Teresa
3.5 of 5 Hearts. A Successful Modern Adaptation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Though not without flaws, A Long Way Off succeeds in reaching its predicted conclusion in a way that touches and inspires. John Diehl shines in his understated portrayal of Abraham, a patient and loving father who moves beyond mere forgiveness to lavishly celebrate his undeserving son.*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above DVD from Edify Media in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”