The Shack Parent Review

This deep look at a father dealing with loss explores some important concepts, including forgiving and healing.

Overall A

Mack (Sam Worthington) is dealing with the loss of his daughter. Then the grieving father receives a mysterious invitation to return to the shack where she was murdered -- from someone claiming to be God! This movie is based on a Christian novel by William Paul Young.

Violence C+
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A
Substance Use C+

The Shack is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some violence.

Movie Review

Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington) is a man carrying more baggage than an overseas-bound 747. His troubled childhood included a father who brutally abused both him and his mother. The terror pushed Mack to make a critical decision, the weight of which still hangs upon him.

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The years have passed and now Mack has a lovely family and wonderfully supportive wife (Radha Mitchell). But when he takes his three kids for a camping trip, a seemingly inconsolable event occurs. After rescuing his son and older daughter (Gage Munroe, Megan Charpentier) from a canoeing accident, he returns to their campsite and discovers his youngest daughter (Amelie Eve) is missing. An exhaustive search eventually reveals her blood-stained clothes in an abandoned shack far into the woods.

The incident leaves Mack feeling hopeless and desperate for answers. He’s a regular church attender, yet he can’t imagine how a so-called loving God could do this to him. Then, on a winter weekend when his wife and children are away, he discovers a small card in his mailbox. The note’s typewritten message invites him to return to the shack. And it purports to be written by Papa—his wife’s pet name for God.

Prepared for a violent confrontation with the murderer, Mack makes his way through the snowy wilderness. What he eventually finds though isn’t at all what he (or we) might expect. In an opening in the dense forest he discovers a lush and flowery clearing where he meets Papa, Jesus Christ and Sarayu (Octavia Spencer, Aviv Alush, Sumire Matsubara)—better known to Christians as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The introduction is the beginning of a process that will ultimately change Mack’s life. He will gain valuable insight about his ability to forgive, how his preconceived notions alter his judgment of others and eventually alter his understanding of his relationship with deity.

This deep look at a father dealing with loss will likely be too abstract and/or frightening for children. Even some adults may have a difficult time riding the emotional cues in this film. Obviously, your experience will depend on your religious background and acceptance of, at the very least, the existence of God. Certainly, some Christians may object to the multi-cultural and dual-gender representation of these revered deities, which includes Octavia Spencer playing the role of God. However, if viewed as an allegory, this tale introduces and explores some important concepts. The story places greater emphasis on Mack’s healing process than promoting specific doctrine, making it more of a lesson on how we may move past barriers that stop us from progressing.

Thanks to A-list actors and a carefully crafted script, which is based on the incredibly popular novel by William Paul Young, The Shack comes across as a sincere offering to the many of us who are dealing with our own life-long scars and grudges. Just be prepared to become far more personally engaged with this movie than most other cinematic experiences.

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine. Starring Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell, Octavia Spencer . Running time: 132 minutes. Theatrical release March 3, 2017. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Shack here.

The Shack Parents Guide

Forgiveness is usually seen as a religious concept. Do the consequences of not forgiving only affect people of faith? What tools or methods can someone use to overcome these feelings if they are not spiritually motivated to do so?

Are there actual physical or mental health consequences from harboring anger and hatred toward someone? Check out this information from a medical expert on the health benefits of forgiveness.

Mack discovers that he judges people according to his own beliefs and experience. What experiences have you had that may prejudice you toward others? What types of people come into your mind when you think of those who you mistrust? Where do these images and perceptions come from? How can you try to change these beliefs?