C.S. (Clive Staples) Lewis is one of my favorite authors. I was introduced to his work through his famous The Chronicles of Narnia series, and from there I discovered his books like The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity. He was an absolute genius, and he invited his readers to open their minds to imagine a world beyond our own. He had a way of making a fictional world called Narnia appear to be a tangible place and making talking mice believable. Lewis had an endless flow of creativity, and I think all of us have been affected by his literature in one way or another.
From Disney adaptations of his books to stage plays based on his life, many people have come to know and love C.S. Lewis. He published over 30 books in his lifetime, and they continue selling in bookstores to this day. People around the world have treasured these books, and there are so many who are committed to keeping his legacy alive. The actors Max McLean, Nicholas Ralph, and Eddie Ray Martin are among those people who are keeping Lewis's literature fresh in the minds of a new generation.
Being the total book nerd that I am, I was so thrilled when I heard that there was a new biopic coming out about the life of C.S. Lewis called The Most Reluctant Convert. Earlier this year I read his autobiography Surprised By Joy, so I absolutely wanted to see this film that was based on the book. I was able to watch a pre-screening of the movie, and it captured the extraordinary life of C.S. Lewis in a unique way.
The film opens up by portraying Lewis as a young child in his hometown of Belfast, Ireland. At the age of nine, his mother, Flora, died, which shaped the foundation of his life. In his own words, it produced a "deeply engrained pessimism" in him. With a struggling relationship with his father, C.S. Lewis found companionship in his brother Warren. But, eventually, they were separated by differing schools. As time went on, Lewis went to Oxford University, and later, he enlisted in the military. Shortly after, he was wounded and eventually discharged.
But, through it all, Lewis was searching. Lewis explains in his autobiography that he was searching for a feeling. He found that the feeling he was looking for was joy. Which is something that could only come from God. The movie captures his wrestling with belief, and the various religious turns he took throughout his life. He was an atheist, and later, he looked to theism. But, finally, he reluctantly accepted Christianity. With the help of his friends J.R.R. Tolkien (you know, that one guy who wrote The Lord of the Rings) and Hugo Dyson, he made the choice that would ultimately change his life: he finally came to accept that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The Cast and Set
The cast of The Most Reluctant Convert truly made the characters come to life. Portraying real-life people and real-life events can't be easy, but the cast made it look effortless. In the film, three different people portray C.S. Lewis. Eddie Ray Martin took on the role of Lewis as a child, Nicholas Ralph as a young man, and Max McLean as an older man. Max appeared in several scenes but primarily narrated the film. The supporting cast included Richard Harrington as Albert Lewis, Amy Alexander as Flora Lewis, and Tom Glenister as J.R.R. Tolkien. They did an exceptional job at capturing the uniqueness and complexities of the characters.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The atmosphere of the scene is incredible, and both actors do an exceptional job at portraying their characters. If you don't have good actors, you can't have a good film. The script could be amazing, but if you don't have the right actors, the movie falls flat. In The Most Reluctant Convert, you could tell that everyone involved was passionate about their roles. The filmmakers found a great mix of actors, and they all worked well together in the movie.
After reading Surprised By Joy, I had pictures in my mind of the people and places Lewis described. The film brought to life those scenes I had envisioned. Lewis was a genius, and he always described places so well that you felt like you were there. The movie did an amazing job at composing those places from book to screen. It was filmed in 18 locations around Oxford, England, places that Lewis actually would have visited while he attended college there. The British landscape gives the movie a feeling of authenticity, and it gives viewers an inside look at where C.S. Lewis would have spent his time.
What We Can Learn
There's so much we can learn from the life of C.S. Lewis. For one thing, his whole life story is one of redemption. So much happened in his life that it would have been easy for him to reject God entirely. From his mother dying at a young age to being wounded in the military, Lewis endured a lot of hardship. But, God used both the good and the pain to ultimately draw him into a relationship with Himself. It took years before Lewis gave God his full attention, and that's what the entire movie is based on.
The Most Reluctant Convert is a unique name for a movie, but it comes from C.S. Lewis himself in his autobiography. "In the Trinity Term of 1929, I gave in and admitted that God was God," Lewis writes. "[I] knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." Even after all of his reluctance and I'm sure a lot of doubt, God still accepted Lewis where he was. And that's good news for all of us.
No one is too far gone for God's love. The life of C.S. Lewis is proof of that, and it's the central message of the entire movie. Lewis ran from God until he ended up running to God. And because of that life-changing encounter, God used his life for extraordinary things. The movie doesn't show much of what happened in Lewis's life after he accepted Christianity, but fans know the rest of the story. He went on to write dozens of books, pointing people to the One he had tried to run from for so many years. His conversion to Christianity began a new chapter in his life; one that continues to affect the lives of so many to this day.
Overall, I thought The Most Reluctant Convert was a great movie, and I would highly recommend it to any C.S. Lewis fan. Although there were a lot of pros, yes, there were some cons. When I first sat down to watch the movie, I wasn't expecting the majority of it to be narrated. I would've loved to see the characters have more dialect in it, and of course, I would've loved if they delved deeper into the life of C.S. Lewis. But, one of the biggest pros of the film is that it had a lot of atmosphere to it. I love the fact that it was filmed in England, where Lewis spent the majority of his life. The scenery was beautiful, and it really added to the movie.
C.S. Lewis died long before I was born, but his books have still influenced my life. Being able to see this movie was like getting to have an inside look at his life and the events that led up to his conversion to Christianity. The filmmakers were able to capture the life of this prolific writer in a short amount of time, and the results turned out to be amazing.
The Most Reluctant Convert will be in theaters for on November 3, and you can purchase tickets here.
Grace Chaves has been a fan of all things Christian music since 2016. She is NRT's news editor, and one of NRT's youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace is an author, loves Jesus, concerts, and road trips.
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