Tuesday, March 17, 2009

priestly presence: faith in Gran Torino film

I enjoyed, in a disturbing sort of way, the movie Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood is superb as the racist, aging American, and the depiction of American urban ethnic life highly disturbing. This is suburban front porch theology at it’s gritty best. Into all this steps a young priest Father Janovich. It’s worth watching the movie for this character portrayal alone, for how does the media portray religious leaders?

Early on Father Janovich is dismissed, in the words of the acerbic Clint Eastwood, “an overeducated 27-year-old virgin who likes to hold the hands of superstitious old ladies and promise them everlasting life.” Ouch!

Despite the rebuff, the priest remains pastorally present. His patience ensures a gradually earned respect. His initial homily drips syrup, although it does prove strangely prophetic, for death is indeed bitter-sweet for so many in Gran Torino. His entry into the pub for a drink with Clint is a significant turning point and shows the power of being present and persistent, and of entering the turf of another. The Father’s ability to listen and in that listening issue a prophetic challenge for Clint to explore life is another important pastoral moment. His awareness of local issues, his networking with other community figures and his willingess to be a peacemaker shine through. His final homily shows the power of storytelling earthed in growing pastoral relationships.

In the end, Father Janovich attempts at at-one-ment are upstaged by two other characters (trying not to give the plot away and I have more to say on this in a later film-review). Nevertheless, for a contemporary movie, it is a surprisingly positive priestly portrayal.

Posted by steve at 06:56 PM


  1. Just saw this film last night – I’m not usually a big Clint fan, but I was impressed. Lots to think on and yes the portrayal of the priest was refreshing. Can’t discuss plot here I guess as it would ruin the movie, but look forward to your review.

    Comment by Jack — March 22, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  2. thanks jack. the review was really hard to write … no spoilers now 🙂


    Comment by steve — March 25, 2009 @ 9:38 am

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