Emmy-nominated director Billy Dickson has written an endless number of family-based, faith-based scripts. Most them, however, have only collected dust. Dickson told Jacob Sahms for ChristianCinema.com, “I had been writing family-based, faith-based scripts but they were collecting dust because people wouldn’t take a look at them. They were too soft; there weren’t enough gun fights.” His new project, Believe, seeks to be the faith-based film that crosses barriers. It has a little bit of everything. And promises to be a new Christmas classic.
The small town of Grundy, Virginia looks forward to one thing every year – the annual Christian pageant provided by the Peyton family. Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) has inherited his family’s business, and the responsibility for the Christmas pageant. The family business, however, has fallen on financial hardship, with implications of the same happening to the whole town.
Matthew is overwhelmed and is faced with a major decision. Does he sell the family business and cancel the pageant or stick it out despite his declining popularity in the community?
Matthew becomes so unpopular that others in town threaten his life, leaving him on the side of the road, bruised and bleeding. A young African-American boy named Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown) discovers him and along with his mother Sharon (Danielle Nicolet), they nurse Matthew back to health.
Clarence and his mom live on the “other” side of town.
Much like the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Clarence and Sharon are the least likely to help a rich, white man on the side of the road. This poor, African-American single mom is unemployed and unable to provide much for her son. The apartment building she and the other tenants live in has no working heat. They are the poorest of the poor.
Clarence, or CJ as he’s called, is a typical young boy. He is full of energy, full of life, and most of all, full of hope. He believes that the pageant will take place and he hopes to be Gabriel the angel. No doubt, Clarence is a nod to Clarence the angel from the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
The film introduces the young actor Issac Ryan Brown, who, for all accounts and purposes, steals the show. He is able to bring to life the pivotal role of Clarence in a way that is heartwarming and moving. Brown’s Clarence is the heart of the film.
Clarence is the embodiment of hope.
The experience with Clarence and his mother is enough to change Matthew’s heart. While his employees are on strike, Matthew brings Clarence’s building to his facility to stay the night, keeping them out of the cold and providing medical attention. It seems that Matthew is a changed man. But the fate of the pageant is still on the line. Will it happen or not?
The word “believe” is tossed around throughout the film. We have seen it in Christmas movies before. All the conflict will be resolved if we “believe” in Santa Claus, or if we “believe” in the meaning of Christmas. Here it is implied, without throwing scripture at us, that if we “believe” in Jesus, all our worries will disappear.
Yet the film, with the help of Clarence, takes it a bit deeper. To believe is to hold firmly to hope. The meaning of Christmas is to hope that the impossible is possible. Hope arrived one silent night in the birth of a baby boy, and everything changed. Hope in the impossible was real.
Clarence lives in such poverty that nothing seems possible. His fate seems sealed. Clarence believes so strongly that hope empowers the impossible to be believable. It is enough to teach Matthew, and us, that hope is for all.