Review by Tres
I had hopes of spending some extra money to take my wife on a date to do this review, but having to leave work due to illness and having to get a cake finished for our daughter’s 10th birthday party left me finding a movie on Netflix.
I have found myself seeking out the Christian themed movies more and more on Netflix and enjoying the selections that they have. I came across Ragamuffin about the life of musician and song writer Rich Mullins that had a tremendous career in the 80-90’s with hit songs that he sang, as well as were sung by Amy Grant, such as (Our God is an) Awesome God and Sometimes by Step. When I saw that it received a 4.5 stars and that he was from Richmond, Indiana, I pushed play.
The movie started out in black and white and I quickly discovered that it was going to be a movie narrated by Rich (Michael Koch). Personally, narrated movies are ones that I don’t usually care for, but I watch them. I just feel that a movie should be able to tell you what it needs to through the story without having to be narrated to fill in the “gaps”.
Anyway, let me do the positives, first.
Michael Koch is a very talented young man when it comes to music: piano, guitar, and vocals were all done by him for the movie and it’s top notch. There are times when he sings songs of praise that you feel his heart reaching out to God. He played this dark character well, alcohol issues, relationship issues, and inner struggle came across as genuine.
The scenery, especially his early years, I would believe was filmed in Indiana. I drive 40 miles from the edge of Hamilton county in Indiana all the way to the western side of Boone county each day to get to my school to teach, and the country roads, farms, little churches… yes, we have it all.
I have to say my two favorite characters are probably overlooked the most in the movie. John Mullins (Mel Fair), is a farmer that knows nothing but farming. He wants his eldest son, Rich, to grow up to be a farmer and take over the family farm for him some day. He has two other sons and two daughters. He understands his two other sons and his daughters, but he just doesn’t get Rich. Rich understands music, John doesn’t. Rich wants to help, but he doesn’t pay attention to details, like using diesel in a diesel tractor instead of gas. Rich gets frustrated and wants to force things to work, which will cause it to break, and John can’t afford that and doesn’t understand that. John snaps at his son. He says things he regrets. He doesn’t know how to say he’s sorry. He doesn’t know how to talk to him. He doesn’t know how to tell him he cares.
My other favorite character is Brennan Manning (Charles Lawlor). Manning wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel, which was a best seller, and known for being a recovering alcoholic that faced his demons on a daily basis. He was also known for telling people how it was and being blunt about it. It’s drew Rich to him. (Brennan reminds me a great deal of my Papaw Fuller and how he always dealt with me… minus the recovering alcoholic)
The parts that I struggles with the most were actor chemistry, filming continuity, and the darkness.
The different actors in which Rich was suppose to relate to the most never seemed to connect truly on film. There wasn’t any type of chemistry; it just always seemed forced. I don’t know if this was because of he quality of actors, the type of actors that auditioned for supporting cast compared to needing a truly talented lead, or what, but it was distracting.
The filming continuity drove me crazy and just down right frustrated me a couple of times. Throughout the scenes of his adult life Rich goes from take to take between short hair and long hair. For some, maybe that’s not a big deal. For me, it drove me crazy. Either wait and have him grow his hair out to do all of the filming, or put a wig on him if you want him to have long hair. However, do NOT insert different recorded pieces when he has much shorter hair where it’s suppose to be in a continual timeline.
Finally, the darkness of Rich was overpowering throughout the film. Some articles I have read the past two days have said, “Yes, that’s who he was”, while others have said, “That was only him part of the time.” I watched a few videos of him in performances and he had a more uplifting spirit in those moment on video, than is being portrayed in this movie, for sure.
What it comes down to is this, and his brother was a major part of the project, and everyone that knew Rich agrees to this, and Rich publicly admitted to it often, he struggled with his walk with God. He loved God passionately. He never doubted God. There were just times he didn’t feel him and he wasn’t sure why. He struggled with always feeling alone. It started from his childhood when his father didn’t understand him, through school when peers didn’t understand him, and into adulthood where he fell in love with a girl and she followed a different path and married another. (He never loved another.) He just struggled with being alone and most importantly, I think from what I have been reading, letting people in.
He allowed his college roommate’s to play a father role for him, but he suddenly died and left that hole even bigger. Then his own dad died without them ever being able to connect with each other. This left a lot of hurt and struggle in Rich and he began to spiral out of control, turning to alcohol and focusing on his loneliness and that’s when Brennan, whom he had befriended earlier in life, steps in and forces him to face his biggest demons.
Rich was able to finally love is dad for who he was, and see that his dad truly did love him for who he was. He was able to see that God loved him and never left him alone, but that he just had to open himself truly to him. (Matt 28:20 and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.)
John and his father missed so many opportunities to connect with one another. Sadly, how often does that occur in our society. We let unsaid things go on and we spend years apart, and we think, “Tomorrow.” Jesus warns us about planning ahead. Luke 20 versus 18-21 says
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Rich Mullins died shortly before his 42nd birthday in a fatal car wreck finally known peace and not feeling alone.
This is a low-key movie.
There are times it drags through.
It’s not fantastic.
It’s not terrible.
I have to rank it as something that I just wish was a little better. 3 stars from me.