Making the Grades
Life hasn’t been very fair to Bill "Mac" McDonald (Michael Joiner). For the last seventeen years he has wrestled with the emotional effects of losing his oldest child due to a traumatic accident. His surviving son Blake (Rob Erickson) is a rebellious and sourly teenager. He can’t seem to do anything but argue with his wife Sara (Joy Moore). And his work as a policeman never quite provides enough income. His financial stress isn’t helped any when he is past over for a promotion. Nor is his attitude after he learns that Sam Wright (Mike Higgenbottom), who was made sergeant instead, is now his partner.
As it turns out, Sam isn’t very happy about the arrangement either. Being a cop was supposed to be a part-time gig while the aspiring preacher grew his small parish. The new title means more time on the streets and less in the church. And he is pretty sure Mac is as upset about being paired up with a man of color as he is about losing the job advancement to a younger officer.
Nevertheless, Sam is a man of God, so he tries to smooth the chip on Mac’s shoulder by extending a hand of friendship. Unfortunately, his kindness is not appreciated. Used to working alone, Mac rushes into dangerous situations without back up, putting both his own life and Sam’s at risk. He also resents chitchat about his family life. With racial slurs and blatant prejudice slipping out during every conversation, there seems no bridge for the division between them. As Sam searches for ways to deal with this offensive man, including prayer and counsel from his aged Grandfather (Louis Gossett Jr.), he wishes forgiveness was as easy to hand out as a greeting card.
Then another calamity hits Mac’s life and he is forced to confront the demons of his past. Looking on, Sam wonders if the situation is supposed to be an opportunity for him to minister to this bitter white brother. Yet the crisis is such that neither man is sure they have the inner fortitude to meet the challenge.
Although this is a faith-based story, the film contains depictions that may be disturbing for younger audiences. This is particularly true of the portrayals of law-enforcement duties. A woman accuses her boyfriend of harming her baby (the child shows no signs of injury, but the mother has a bleeding face). Drug dealing and use (including by teens) is implied. Gun threats occur. An on-the-job shooting results in bloody injuries, which are seen again in a hospital emergency room. Family members argue causing serious conflicts. And a character turns to the bottle for stress relief.
Yet amidst these weighty elements the movie tries to explain the necessity of God’s grace in the process of forgiving others, as well as one’s self. While the plot is predictable, there is sincerity in its depictions of the self-examination and personal sacrifice required to find inner peace. Christian viewers are especially likely to appreciate The Grace Card‘s moral message.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Grace Card.
Why is Mac unable to move on after the death of his first son? How does the loss affect his relationship with Blake and his wife? In what ways does it impact his job? Meanwhile Sam claims spending time with Mac makes him face emotions (such as anger and hate) that he hasn’t felt for a long time. Why?
How do each of the characters use the "grace of God" to overcome these challenges? Why is forgiveness such an important part in their healing process? Is there any other means by which they could learn to "lay down their burdens"? What tools do you use to deal with tragedy, injustice or bitterness in your life?