While going through my Amazon Watchlist, this movie was popped up in “You might also like” recommendations. The poster got my attention, but also raised some questions. Honestly, while the trailer (below) was intriguing, it wasn’t clear enough for me to know if this was another of those “inspirational” religious films designed to instruct Christians to be nicer to the gay community, while maintaining the firm stance that we are “sinners” who need to Jesus. (Hey, that stuff happens!) I researched the director/writer and read their website and was a bit suspicious when it recommended viewing parties at local churches.
Personal Note: If you find this approach excessive, that’s fine. But I’ve lived with this kind of denunciation of the LGBTQ community…and me…for too many years—either through hardcore condemnation or some soft-pedaled approach, couched in a message of pseudo-acceptance for the purpose of evangelism and conversion. I have no interest in wasting time watching their movies, or reading their books, or listening to their lectures.
Oh, and I’ve been on the other end of the inane “love the sinner, hate the sin” platitude. (Which comes up in this movie, by the way.)
Reviews of this film were scarce, but overall positive, so we decided to watch.
And I do not regret that decision.
Dave Hopper is a Christian counselor who recently lost his wife…to another woman. His Christian community blames him, and he eventually loses his practice. He takes a part-time teaching position at his alma mater, a conservative Christian college.
In a conversation with the Dean, Dave learns the school wants to acquire a piece of property to build a psychology department, which the Dean wants Dave to head. The catch: the building has been left to a support group, with the understanding they pay the back taxes.
The Dean suggests Dave visit the group and see if they have the money.
When Dave shows up, he learns it’s an LGBTQ support group, run by Alyssa, an attractive heterosexual woman. Everyone in the group, including Alyssa, assumes Dave is gay.
He discovers the group wants to convert the space into a shelter for homeless LGBTQ teens, because the local shelter won’t allow them to stay. He continues to attend, first working to bring discord within the group and also sabotage their fundraising.
Then, as Dave gets to know the people, he’s forced to re-examine some of his most basic beliefs about those in the group.
I've written about Christian / religious-themed movies in the past.
I’m generally not a fan of “Jesus” movies.
I disagreed with the basic theology of Left Behind.
I was scathing in what I saw as the intent of God’s Not Dead 2.
In Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, I examined the intersection of Christian faith and homosexuality.
(At the End of the Day has a similar theme.)
In the beginning of this story, we meet a wounded, broken Dave, who’s still confident and secure in his sacred beliefs. Combined with his recent personal experience, he holds a harsh, “black and white” view of homosexuality, which he expresses on his first day in class when he’s asked: “Why does God hate gay people?”
As the story unfolds, Dave gets to know actual people who’ve been impacted by his brand of theology, and we see him dealing with uncomfortable uncertainties.
At one point, a student challenges him: “All you do is answer the question. You never ask any?”
Eventually we hear Dave ask an important question: “What if we’re wrong about them?”
The title of the movie comes from a conversation Dave has with his free-spirited aunt, who takes him in after he loses everything. She says she lives by the philosophy of asking herself: at the end of the day, who did I love?
In some ways, At the End of the Day has amusing hints of a Hallmark movie.
Dave goes to the support group, and doesn’t disclose his reasons or ulterior motives. He’s attracted to Alyssa, and lets her think he’s gay so he can spend time with her. He plans to tell her the truth, but waits too long. When he’s exposed, she’s angry and leaves.
Classic Hallmark plot! (Though I don’t expect to see Candace Cameron-Bure in this one.)
Because I was part of Fundamentalism, and worked in that mindset for many years (and still encounter them regularly as a result of my online presence), there were a few implausible elements for me, but not enough to ruin the movie.
For example, I do not think that the Dean of a conservative Christian college would suggest a professor pretend to be gay, nor encourage him to go to a gay bar. As we see later in the movie, the Dean has nothing but righteous disdain for homosexuals, and believes in separation from and exclusion of these kinds of sinners.
I enjoyed this movie!
Sure, I noticed stereotypes in the depiction of LGBTQ people and Christians.
Yes, I heard clichés in the rants from both “sides” of the arguments.
But again, none of these were major detractors for me. I thought the story raised important issues, asked key questions, and came with satisfying emotional content.
Most of all, it targeted one primary point about faith: Love!
Personally, I liked watching Dave wrestle through his own sense of failure, confront himself and his dogma, then change…and grow…as an individual, and as a person of faith. (In fiction writing, that’s known as a Hero’s Arc or Hero’s Journey.)
I appreciated that Dave got to see first-hand how real people were being hurt by his harsh beliefs.
Sadly, the strong, clear messages in the movie could cause some—those who might benefit most—to dismiss it as merely “gay agenda,” though writer/director doesn’t identify as gay.
I’ve long believed that much distrust and hatred could be eliminated if we got to know one another. If we talked to each other rather than at each other. Or about each other.
After all, the essence of prejudice is PRE-judging.
We are prejudice when we make a decision, or make up our minds about someone, BEFORE meeting them. Perhaps we know one aspect of a person, and immediately form our opinion, based on our PRE-dispositions about that aspect.
“They are Transgender, so…”
”He’s gay, so…”
”A lesbian couple is…”
”The LGBTQ community is…”
Too many Christians only have an understanding of LGBTQ people based only on a narrative told to them by their preachers, their Sunday School teachers, their Bible study leaders, their religious literature, or their televangelists. And generally, what they’ve been told are lies, exaggerations or misinformation, designed to instill fear, exercise control, and/or raise money.
But they’ve never gotten to know any actual LGBTQ people.
They’ve never spent time talking, asking questions…and listening!
This movie is about one man’s experience of doing just that.
And at the end of the day, it mattered!