Monday, December 12, 2011

Have a Little Faith

There was a time when made-for-TV movies dominated network television. Those days are long gone. No more first time directors like Steven Steinberg cutting his teeth on such innovative projects like Duel. But we can find one exception that still shines bright on network television. The Hallmark Hall of Fame has been a staple on network television since the 1950s. They continue to set the standard for excellence and quality in television programming.

They brought us such classics as The Magic of Ordinary Days, Dance with the White Dog, and Back When We Were Grownups. Joining that list is the recent broadcast of Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith. Thanks to a recent new agreement with NBC Television, Hallmark Hall of Fame can be seen not only on broadcast television but also on the Hallmark Channel. Have a Little Faith is the true story of Mitch Albom, a successful author and newspaper sports reporter from Detroit, Michigan.

Albom’s book, Have a Little Faith, has been used by both religious and nonreligious organizations as a discussion about faith, charity, interfaith dialogue, and community service projects. Hallmark decided it would make a perfect film for this year’s Christmas Hall of Fame presentation. In some ways, it was a surprising move because this is not the type of material Hallmark normally deals with.

The story revolves around Mitch Albom’s journey to reconnect with his Jewish heritage and faith. Albom is played by Bradley Whitford and is approached by his childhood Rabi, Albert Lewis (Martin Landau) at a book signing. His old Rabi asked Mitch to write and deliver his eulogy. It seems an odd request considering the fact that Mitch seems to be indifferent to faith. After some hesitation, he agrees to the request on the condition that he can do a series of interviews to better understand and get to know Rabi Lewis. The only problem is Rabi Lewis isn’t in any hurry to die. As time goes on, Mitch seems to be more open to the concept of God and His plan.

In a parallel story, we meet Henry Covington (Lawrence Fishburne), a street hustler and drug dealer. His life has been anything but a fairy tale. After a stint in prison, Henry moves into the big time. After using up all of his boss’s drugs, Henry’s life is in jeopardy. Fearing for his life, he makes a deal with God that if he survives the night he will do whatever God wants.

Henry makes good and becomes a pastor in Detroit’s inner city. His church, I Am My Brother’s Keeper, helps those at the lowest rungs of society—the homeless, drug dealers, drug addicts and ex-cons. The only problem is the church has no heat and a huge hole in the roof.

Mitch sees the homeless lining up and is struck by the sign, I Am My Brother’s Keeper. Mitch enters into the most unlikely relationship with Henry, which leads to self-discovery for both men. As all of this is happening, Mitch continues to grow in his newfound faith as he prepares for the eventual eulogy.

As I said, this is not the usual material Hallmark features. Have a Little Faith is gritty and offers a more realistic view of life than Hallmark normally portrays. The film is essentially a study of faith. In essence, it’s about how faith can change the world.

It seems that Rabi Lewis had something up his sleeve when he chose Mitch. How do you move from a place of no faith to a place where it is impossible to live without faith? I’m struck by the overall theme of this film of how different people from different places living different lives can reach the same conclusion that a life without faith is meaningless. If we truly are our brother’s keeper, we must have the faith, conviction, and belief that we can make a difference in this world.

Have a Little Faith makes an excellent point that God does have a plan—if only we have the faith to believe. Have a Little Faith is acted beautifully by all parties, especially Martin Landau as Rabi Lewis. Hallmark does an excellent job finding talented artists who aren’t just looking for a paycheck but are looking for something they can put their hearts and souls into. The commitment to excellence is refreshing, and you will be inspired by the movie.

Publishers Weekly calls Albom’s book a masterpiece of hope. says it is the best nonfiction book of 2009. If you missed the movie, you can see it on dvd. Go to for details.

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