‘GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD’ Starring Lindsay Pulsipher, Andrew W. Walker, Gary Grubbs, Kim Delaney; directed by Harold Cronk; 105 minutes; PG for mature thematic elements and some combat.
“God Bless the Broken Road,” named for a song made famous by Rascal Flatts, is a well-meaning, competently made faith-based drama. But good intentions and a diverse cast aren’t enough to spread the gospel beyond moviegoers already invested in God (and country music and NASCAR). And it’s unfortunate that the tribute to veterans that is such a part of the movie’s marketing turns out to be little more than a framing device that’s dispensed with for most of the plot.
The movie, set in a small town in Kentucky, centers on Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher of “True Blood”), whose angelic voice led the church choir in devotional country songs until she stopped going to church after her husband was killed in Afghanistan. Her daughter, Bree (Makenzie Moss), keeps the faith, planting a mustard seed, which, as the parable says, grows from small beginnings, much like the kingdom of Heaven.
The young widow struggles to make ends meet, working extra shifts at a diner and taking high-interest loans from a pawnshop. She’s in danger of losing her house, much to the chagrin of her mother-in-law (Kim Delaney of “NYPD Blue”). Amber considers moving on with her life when she meets Cody (Andrew W. Walker), a hotshot race-car driver who’s had his own troubles.
Themes of doubt and redemption are powerful here, and character actor Gary Grubbs (“The X Files”) is convincing as Joe, the avuncular auto repair-shop owner who teaches “Speed Racer,” as he calls Cody, to slow when he takes a curve. Yet this faith-based film requires a suspension of disbelief: Joe’s lesson is an apt metaphor for life, sure, but how could Cody have succeeded on the track if he didn’t already know when to slow down?
Worse, extras in group scenes stare at the camera uncomfortably, as if director Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) failed to give them guidance. The filmmakers display technical proficiency, and seeing flawed people struggle with their belief is natural drama.
But aside from Grubbs’ genuine wisdom, the characters mostly play inspirational pawns more than three-dimensional people, their relationships held together by the most slender of threads. “God Bless the Broken Road” plants a seed of evangelical drama, but its efforts to proselytize are unlikely to bear fruit.