Don’t Go Into The Light: Our Review of ‘Let There Be Light’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 09, 2018
Don’t Go Into The Light: Our Review of ‘Let There Be Light’

Let There Be Light is a Christian drama with the artistic merit of a YouTube dog-shaming video. Directed by Kevin Sorbo and cowritten by his wife, Sam Sorbo (and featuring their two sons), the film is a 100-minute fairy-tale for American right wingers. If you have a soft spot for poorly made Christian agitprop or if you’re looking for material to fuel weeks of Twitter snark, dive right in.

Kevin Sorbo plays Dr. Sol Harkens, a cocksure atheist living life like a rockstar. When the story begins, we meet Harkens in all his condescending glory, talking down to his opponent during a pro/anti religion debate. Harkens is on tour promoting his book, subtly titled, ‘Aborting God,’ and he’s generating so much buzz that he’s on track to be the next Bill Maher. Harkens lost his faith after his 8-year old son died of cancer. Since his son passed Harkens has become a famous author and public speaker who is all about that atheist life. He dresses in all black, praises the joys of sex drugs, and rock and roll, and preaches atheism to sold out audiences across the country.

While driving home from a night of womanizing and binge-drinking, a drunk Harkens veers off the road and crashes his car. The accident leaves him clinically dead for several minutes and stop me if you see where this is going…he sees a tunnel of light and he’s visited by his dead son. When Harkens awakens in the hospital his near death experience calls his lack of faith into question. Shaken by the possibility that there is a god, he’s forced to choose between promoting atheism or revealing his newfound faith and possibly ending his career.

I am a cinephile through-and-through. I’ve watched every film genre, from every era, from every country. Each year I watch hundreds of films ranging from art-house to blockbuster. And I can’t state what I’m about to write more clearly: This is one of the worst films I’ve watched during my adult life. It’s not even because most of Let There Be Light comes off like a religious indoctrination video; I’ve watched plenty of films with stark political agendas that still have entertainment value.

It should go without saying that movies are a matter of taste. Some people love sumptuous English melodramas while others live for Michael Bay’s brand of destruction. Every movie is someone’s favourite movie and it’s hard to quantify art by measuring how much you love it as a fan. But when it comes to the craft of filmmaking — storytelling, editing, camera placement — there are objective standards. And when a film fails to meet these standards, regardless of genre or personal preferences, a film becomes insufferable. Let There Be Light is insufferable.

For starters, Let There Be Light breaks storytelling’s golden rule: Show don’t tell. Characters stand around telling each other who they are and how they feel which is just plain lazy. There’s no reason to empathize with characters unless you already agree with the movie’s heavy-handed rhetoric. It doesn’t help that the characters are poorly crafted one-dimensional stereotypes. We’re talking the kind of broad caricatures a bunch of middle-schoolers might draw up in drama class, like a sassy black publicist (Donielle Artese) who calls her client “Boo.” There’s also Pastor Vinny (Michael Franzese) a former gangster-turned holy-man who speaks like he stepped off the Goodfellas set. I shit you not, he refers to Jesus as getting “wacked” and throws in a “bada-bing” just in case his macho wiseguy shtick isn’t coming through clear enough.

Let There Be Light could be an interesting film if it actually stopped to flesh out Harkens or explore the nature of grief and resentment. Instead his character skips across the stories’ cliche redemptive beats like a stone skimming across a pond. Harkens feels like nothing more than an easy target for didactic finger-wagging and when he finally does have his come-to-Jesus moment it feels cheap and unearned. And worse still, the film doesn’t culminate with Harkens “enlightenment.” Instead, he regains his faith earlier than expected only to have the film veer off into a new lane and become a saccharine melodrama. Once the film makes that swerve, it puts the pedal to the metal and events happen way too fast. Ultimately, the rapid pacing moves things along so quickly that it robs the movie’s final moments of any emotional impact. It’s a shame too because this movie’s ending goes so big it shoots for the stars, literally (even the North Koreans join in on the final come-to-Jesus moment).

Let There Be Light comes off as so contrived, ill-informed, and poorly structured that it barely qualifies as filmmaking. It’s not even preaching to the choir; it’s flat-out propaganda. The only way I would watch this movie a second time is if you tied me down, A Clockwork Orange style. Between the intolerable characters, abhorrent dialogue, and predictable plot, there is little entertainment value here outside of potential hate-watches.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).