A film review by Chet Tan, library volunteer
The 5th Quarter is not your typical “Christian film.” In fact, it is debatable whether it is a Christian film at all. Based on a true story, The 5th Quarter centers around the Abbate family of Powder Springs, Georgia, U.S.A., whose lives are turned upside down by the tragic death of youngest child Luke (Stefan Guy).
The film’s plot does not seem to adhere to the classical structure of Freytag’s Pyramid, as there is no single climactic point at which the audience can be satisfied that the protagonists have finally “triumphed.” Instead, the story proceeds at a slow burn leading up to a beautifully poignant resolution. The film’s ending does not, and cannot, completely take away the pain of the Abbates’ loss, and yet the audience is left comforted with the hope that this family will eventually come to terms with it.
Among The 5th Quarter’s strengths is a veteran cast that turns in convincing performances. With Luke’s father Steven, portrayed by Aidan Quinn, viewers observe how a seemingly rock-solid father can crumble upon receiving the call that no parent ever wants to receive or seeing what no parent should ever see. Andie MacDowell, who plays Steven’s wife Maryanne, gives the audience a soberingly realistic portrayal of the profound grief and loss that only a mother could feel.
And then there is the older son, Jon (Ryan Merriman), a rising star of Wake Forest University’s football team who loses all interest in playing upon the death of his younger brother. Jon challenges the audience with the classic dilemma: “If God is so good, why does he let bad things happen to good people?,” but the film offers no clear-cut answer (and as Christians, we know not to expect one in this lifetime). It is Jon’s journey from the darkness of his grief to a historic winning streak buoyed by the memory of his brother that becomes the central beat of the film.
An extra feature on the DVD is The Making of The 5th Quarter, a 6-minute documentary that goes behind the scenes of the production of the film and includes excerpts of interviews with actual members of the Abbate family. This short program lends to the authenticity of the film, strengthening the impact of its story.
The 5th Quarter does not appear to have been presented as a Christian movie. Instead, it sets out to share the real-life story of an actual Christian family and how they survive the tragic loss of a loved one, and the film accomplishes this without hitting the audience over the head with Bible verses and Christian teachings at every turn. This is not a drawback for the film, as its understated resolution gives its viewers the opportunity to draw their own conclusions, which should make for interesting discussions within an SDG or even with non-Christian viewers.