Audiences who tend to take biblical narratives literally will most enjoy His Only Son, a feature-length retelling of the story of Abraham. Source: Jesuit Media.
This faith-based film references Genesis 22 – God’s request of Abraham that he sacrifice his son, Isaac, which is a story significant for the three Abrahamic faiths.
The publicity for this film states that this story has never been seen before – although George C. Scott and Ava Gardner played Abraham and his wife, Sarah, in John Huston’s The Bible in 1966, and Richard Harris portrayed Abraham in the 1993 television film of that name (the latter well worth viewing).
The introduction to His Only Son tells us that the book of Genesis gives us the full story of Abraham. However, the final credits also indicate that a number of incidents in Genesis have been amplified or fictionalised for dramatic purposes.
In most ways, this is straightforward telling of the story of Abraham, his experience of God asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac and the journey to the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place. However, there are many flashbacks during the journey, especially focusing on the memories of Abraham (Mouawad, looking patriarchal).
The desert and mountain scenery creates a sometimes eerie atmosphere of vast plains, overpowering mountains and caves.
One of the strongest parts of the film is the relationship between Abraham and Sarah – a lot more time is given to this relationship than in other Genesis stories.
Abraham and Isaac do not travel alone to his sacrifice. There are two servants accompanying father and son –one rebellious, the other controlling – and there is a lot of dialogue between them as they camp in caves during the journey.
On the way, several dramatic incidents have been inserted into the familiar biblical tale resulting in a certain earthiness about this storytelling.
However, there is a certain atmosphere of unearthiness in how God is presented – a glowing figure, white, translucent, human outline. Which, for many audiences, may be too ethereal and unconvincing. Perhaps a sense of God’s presence and the use of voice alone might have been more persuasive.
The film is designed for communities that tend to take biblical narratives literally. With some background, the film may be useful for Church groups.
Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC
His Only Son: Starring Nicholas Mouawad, Sara Seyed, Daniel da Silva, Luis Fernandez-Gil, Edaan Moskowitz. Directed by David Helling. 100 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes and violence).
His Only Son (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)