Believe Me: Ten Years Ahead of Schedule, by Tyler Smith
“About ten years.”
That was my standard answer anytime somebody asked me how long I thought it would take for Christian film to actually start getting good. There were moments of encouragement along the way, such as when Christian filmmakers decided to give up on the Apocalypse and start making movies that were a bit more practical in their content. Of course, those moments were short-lived, as I would inevitably find that, though the stories were perhaps a bit more grown-up, the execution was just as clunky and obvious as it had always been.
It had gotten to the point that I had pretty much given up hope that any Christian film could be good. But, not wanting to be defeatist, I decided to pick a random amount of time and just start saying that maybe they’d start to pick up artistic speed by then.
Then I saw Will Bakke’s Believe Me. A comedy about a college student suddenly faced with massive debt who decides to fake a Christian ministry to get some money fast, Believe Me is almost everything that I was looking for in a Christian film. That is to say, it is a real movie, with real characters that speak about faith in a real way. Yes, I realize that that is a very low standard, but, if you had seen some of the films I have, your standard will be low, too.
But, Believe Me goes beyond simply being a run-of-the-mill film. It is actually quite effective. As a comedy, it regularly delivers solid laughs. A good number of these are aimed at Christian culture, and thus may not totally translate to those not currently in it, but the characters and circumstances are enough that I think a general audience can and will enjoy it as a comedy.
The themes that it explores are relevant to most viewers, as well. In a time when many people feel that simply believing in something is enough to carry them through life- regardless of what that thing may be- Believe Me makes the argument that it is more than simply the act of belief that matters. We must have belief in the right thing. Some people believe in a benevolent God, while others believe in the superiority of their race. Belief, it would seem, just isn’t enough to make one a good person.
So, there we are. We have a film that is willing to take a very specific stand on a philosophical issue, yet still manages to create engaging characters in an entertaining story. The tone is just heightened enough to carry some of the broader comedy, while also being grounded enough to explore its theme. To my knowledge, no Christian film has ever successfully done this, until now.
It’s a film that wants to succeed not on how clearly it delivers its message, but by how effectively it involves its audience with the story it’s telling. Its goals are that of any other film, and it largely succeeds where many other movies- Christian or otherwise- fail. This makes Believe Me not only the best Christian film I’ve ever seen, but also a genuinely enjoyable movie.
I was getting to the point that I never thought I’d recommend a Christian film. But, now, when people ask me when the Christian film industry will start getting good, rather than mumble, “I dunno. About ten years, I guess,” I can simply say, “Actually, there’s this film, Believe Me…”