The Most Reluctant Convert

A New Movie on the Conversion of C. S. Lewis

I can’t think of a time when I felt underdressed at a movie theater. Nor do I remember the last time I teared up at the cinema. Yesterday I attended the opening night of the new C.S. Lewis movie. At first it felt like I was in a Wednesday evening church business meeting. By the end, it felt a bit more like a testimony and worship service.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, though I think many will have a similar response as that of a fellow attendee who remarked to someone else on our way out, “It was a little documentary-ish.” It is, but that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise to anyone who goes in knowing this is mostly a retelling of Lewis’s conversion in his own words. I overheard another person in the parking lot saying they wished there were more about Lewis’s later life, which I assumed them to mean something about Narnia since the next word I overheard was “lion.”

The production takes lines from Lewis’s writings and patches them together to fill out a narrative storyline. There are times when Lewis’s words are placed in the mouths of others, think Owen Barfield and J.R.R. Tolkien, but this adaptation helps diversify the format and carry the story along. If I were asked to sum it up in one line it would be that Max MacLean, who is the mind behind the project and the personality of Lewis, performs brilliantly.

If you’ve ever read Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, you’ll quickly see the film covers the same terrain. Some of Lewis’s friends joked with him that the book title could be abbreviated to S.B.J. and reinterpreted as “Suppressed by Jack.” They felt his spiritual autobiography contained too little about the author, who preferred the nickname Jack over Clive Staples Lewis. Some movie goers may feel the same about this new film “The Most Reluctant Convert.”

I would imagine it is in part because the film is rather short, but there is a brief documentary of the making of the film that plays first. I wish it would play after the movie, as seeing key scenes in the film in advance, in my humble opinion, diminishes the impact of those scenes later in the film. Since the month of November marks both C.S. Lewis’s birth and his death, it seems very appropriate the film released when it did. Though dead, his life still speaks.