The Shift Parent Guide
Points for asking big questions, even if the storytelling sometimes falters.
Parent Movie Review
Why does a loving God allow evil and suffering? For millennia, theologians, philosophers and ordinary people have grappled with this question. In The Shift, director Brock Heasley puts a science fiction spin on the Biblical tale of the long-suffering Job and tries to come up with some answers to the problem of evil.
The film opens with Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha), recently laid off and ready to drown his sorrows at a nearby bar. Luckily, he meets Molly (Elizabeth Tabish), and mild flirting leads to something more. Romance is followed by marriage and then heartache drives a wedge between the couple. All that changes when Kevin is involved in a car accident.
Stunned by the impact, Kevin wakes up, not in his car, but in an alleyway. A mysterious man, who introduces himself as the Benefactor (Neal McDonough), informs Kevin that he has entered an alternate reality. The Benefactor is able to move people between realities and wants Kevin to work with him in exchange for getting his life back. Kevin recoils from the offer and his faith is strong enough to banish the Benefactor. Alone in a dark, violent world, Kevin turns to his faith to fan the flames of hope for himself and a small but fervent group of seekers. But The Benefactor hasn’t forgotten Kevin and will never abandon his goal to control him.
Overall, The Shift follows the basic outline of the Book of Job: a good man loses his home, his wealth, his family, and his health. Ailing and destitute, he wrestles with his relationship with God, while his friends question his goodness and his faith. The Old Testament story is filled with poetry, ambiguity, and nuance, which do not appear in this film.
If you’re a regular reader of this website, you will know that I am often irked by Christian films; annoyed that a religion of such power and depth so often inspires mediocre cinema. This filmcertainly looks better than many movies in the genre. The sets are good, the cinematography skilled, the actors competent. Where it falters is its script. The problem of evil and innocent suffering is thorny but Kevin’s simple answer to the existence of evil is that it’s a test of faith. If that answer works for you, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie.
I was frustrated by The Shift for several reasons. First, the movie loses tension when it gets preachy. Second, the ending of the movie irritated me as much as the ending of the Book of Job: people are not widgets and they cannot be interchangeably replaced to create an idealized happy life. Finally, despite my own Christian faith, I didn’t “click” with the movie’s message. Personally, I can’t imagine a God who gives humanity pass/fail grades based on horrific events, many of which are out of our control. I have personally pondered the conundrum of a loving God and innocent suffering but this movie’s answers feel a little too slick for me. That said, I give director Brock Heasley full marks for at least grappling with the questions. A film that makes people think is always welcome – and if it gets teenagers and young adults asking big questions, so much the better.Directed by Brock Heasley. Starring Kevin Garner, Sean Astin, Neal McDonough, Elizabeth Tabish. Running time: 115 minutes. Theatrical release December 1, 2023. Updated December 1, 2023
Watch the trailer for The Shift
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Shift rated PG-13? The Shift is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence and thematic elements
Violence: There are frequent scenes of people being threatened with firearms. People are also shot, sometimes in detailed footage, and are injured or killed. There are some visible bloody injuries. A man is in a car accident and is seen with bloody cuts and scrapes on his face. Masked policemen fire on a crowd of peaceful protestors and throw tear gas. There are scenes where people are shoved against walls and threatened. An angry man throws furniture around a room and yells at God. A child disappears; it is unclear if he is dead or missing.
Sexual Content: A man and woman kiss.
Profanity: It’s possible that there were some muttered profanities, but it was difficult to hear them clearly.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People are seen drinking alcohol in a bar. There’s brief discussion of past problem drinking. A man drinks to excess.
Page last updated December 1, 2023
The Shift Parents' Guide
Why do you think a loving, all-powerful God would allow evil to exist and innocent people to suffer? Do you think suffering is ever redemptive? What do you see as your responsibilities in the face of suffering?
The Benefactor defines evil as selfishness; putting the self above everybody else. Do you agree? Do you think evil would exist without selfishness? Do you think it’s possible to eliminate evil?
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The plot for this movie was inspired by the Book of Job, found in the Bible. You can read this Old Testament book here.
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The Bible has served as inspiration for numerous movies, with various degrees of fidelity to the source material.
The Nativity Story focuses on the birth of Jesus Christ, telling the story recounted in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke. Christ’s ministry is seen through the eyes of a devoted female follower in Mary Magdalene. In Risen, the events of Christ’s death and resurrection are shown from the perspective of a Roman soldier.
The Old Testament book of Genesis is the source material for the very loosely adapted story of Noah. Also loosely taken from the same book is The Prince of Egypt, an animated story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. Those events kept the Israelites in Egypt for generations, until they were liberated by Moses, a story told in The Ten Commandments.
Bible stories have also been adapted into modern settings. Redeeming Love attempts to tell the story of the Book of Hosea in the 19th century American West. The story of Cain and Abel is the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden, later adapted into film. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a family-friendly movie that allegorically conveys the story of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of mankind.