Left motherless by tragedy and abandoned by his father, high school senior Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis) faces enormous pressure as he strives to support his little sisters. At school, he endures the daily bullying of the entire football team. But fighting back only finds him singled out for punishment and assigned to an after-school work detail under the supervision of the reserved groundskeeper, Abel (Kevin Sorbo). Much to his surprise, Seth discovers that Abel may be the only one who truly understands his struggles. As life continues to assault young Seth with more and more trials, he finds himself considering desperate and dangerous solutions.
Abel’s Field is an enjoyable and satisfying film. The field of the title is the high school football field, where so much of the drama of life in the small town of Sinai, Texas takes place. And it is this field – muddy, rutted and in disarray – where Seth must spend his early afternoons – helping groundskeeper Abel ready the field for the big homecoming game. But poor Seth has been dealt a bad hand – in fact, several bad hands one after the other – and he struggles to make ends meet working two other jobs, still going to school, while caring for his twin sisters. Abel becomes his reluctant mentor, and it is his influence that helps Seth make the right decisions when called upon.
The cast is strong, led by veteran Kevin Sorbo (of TV Hercules fame) as the withdrawn Abel. He carries the film, and the bits and pieces of his mysterious past, as these unravel, help to propel the film forward and give it it’s solid pacing. Samuel Davis does an amazing job as Seth, and he has us rooting for him from the onset. It is surprising to see this was one of his first films, as he shows outstanding depth of character and believability. And the supporting cast is strong, too, with nice turns by Richard Dillard as the football coach, and Nicole Elliott as Seth’s interesting (and interested) fellow student. A special shout out goes to Susan Mansur who lights up the screen. Her three short scenes as the local convenience store clerk are favorites – what a scene-stealer – I wanted more. What a stand out!
On a side note, the whole name game thing is unnecessary and a little confusing. Could these have been hold-outs from a previous incarnation of the story? Otherwise, I can see the only reason for the various names is merely to keep us guessing (which is not respectful to the audience) and only pulls us away from the story itself. And I can’t help but the think the government would want to get involved in Seth’s case, but there is no mention of social services in the film. Granted, in the first half of the film, the dad is (wrongly) believed to still be living in the house. I do have to say that Seth is very endearing, so you want him to succeed (without the aid of the government), but no help (interference?) from social services is highly unlikely.
All in all, Abel’s Field kept me guessing (usually wrong!), so the surprises are enjoyable and refreshing. You’ll appreciate the bits and pieces as the story unfolds, leaving you with a satisfying conclusion. This is a faith-based film, but the gospel message is subtle and not heavy-handed. In fact, for most of the film, faith is presented as a questionable pursuit and unreliable. Abel’s Field is highly recommended.
The Christian Worldview:
One of the driving forces of the film is Seth’s coming to grips with his questions and doubts about the Christian faith in which he was raised. Some answers come from the pastor (and Seth takes his sisters to church on a regular basis), but the majority of his answers lie with his mentor, the mysterious Abel, who lives by a Christian standard.
There are instances of bullying, fighting, vandalism, drinking and smoking, but ultimately the main character must decide between right and wrong, and the theme of the film is that the right choice is the proper choice, albeit usually the hardest. My nine-year-old watched this film and I am fine with this choice of mine, but I do not recommend it for those viewers who are younger.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14
Abel’s Field tells the story of how life can challenge your faith, but relying on your faith to guide your decisions – while not always easy – ultimately places you where you need to be – where God wants you to be. Choices for the wrong reasons (although sometime easier), only lead to places of despair and regret. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Do you recall a time when you opted for the easy road, only to discover later that another choice was a better choice? What did you do to correct it? How did Abel react to his past choices in the film? What did he learn would be a better response?
In Philippians 4:8, it says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” How can this verse help us with our choices? Our Christian faith gives us the courage and assurance that Scripture-based decisions are the correct ones. We can stand firm on these choices, trusting in God’s promises and faithfulness to us.
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Learn more about the movie critic and filmmaker Dale Ward
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