Mr. Church


I haven’t written for a few days as I have been bumbling around Russia.  I want to apologise now for then inflicting this film review on you as my return post.

I am a film sucker…by this I mean if there is a true story based film where a weak women finds her strength through learning to sky dive or there is a strong women beaten down by life, I will put it on in the background and probably get completely drawn in.  I’ll despise every minute of it, but I need to know what happened so I can then moan about it later.

So as always, there are spoilers in this blog.  Stop reading now if you intend to watch this film and don’t want to know what happens, but maybe come back to me and let me know what you thought.

This film starts with mother and daughter at the wake of a funeral.  The wake is for the mothers boyfriend.  As he never married her his fortune went to his family, but as a kindness, he had arranged for a cook to look after mother and daughter.  It then transpires that mother has breast cancer and has been given 6 months to live but the daughter only being around 10 years old doesn’t know.  The cook, Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy…yes I was surprised too), presents them with food and the daughter turns her nose up at it and can’t understand why they need a cook, telling her mother to get rid of him.

Eventually the daughter grows to accept Mr. Church and the first part of the film is just the build up of the character dynamics, and showing that the mother lives past the 6 months and lives in for 6 years.  In this time we as the views learn that Mr Church not only can cook, but he can sew, paint, play piano and loves to read.  He is depicted as a very private man and as the mother grows weaker, the relationship between daughter and Mr. Church grows, although Murphy’s presentation of him is starchy and doesn’t come across as private and secretive he comes across as a man with something to hide, and I spent a good chunk of the film thinking he was a gay, black man in the 1970s who didn’t know how to come out.

Just after the daughters prom, the mother dies and it is revealed that Mr. Church has been saving money that he managed to keep aside from the mother clipping coupons so that the daughter can go to university.  

Earlier in the film it’s shown that the daughter has an odd relationship with a guy who travels on her school bus, he rides the bus as in his first week of driving, he got drunk and plowed his car in to someone’s living room, killing their 4 year old son so had his licence revoked.  The daughter turns to him to teach her to drive.

The daughter goes off to university and her and Mr. Church stay in contact.  She is doing well until suddenly she goes off the rails a little bit and she turns up on Mr. Church’s doorstep pregnant.  She asks if she can stay for a few days.  He says that she can but she still needs to respect his privacy.  At one point he comes home drunk and catches her snooping and throws her out.

The next day she is planning to return to university, stops to get food and sees the guy who she used to ride on the bus with.  She stops to to talk with him but he seems edgy and drunk. As she turns to go to her car, a guy on a skate board knocks her down, hitting her head on the pavement.  Bus guy scoops her up and drives her (while he’s drunk) to the hospital.  At one point I did think he was going to put the car through the front of the hospital as that would have perked this scene up a bit, but no, he gets her to the hospital fine and Mr. Church shows up saying that he is responsible for her and from there on she lives with Mr. Church.  

She then has a daughter and Mr. Church looks after the 2 of them.  He still goes out a couple of times a week, coming home drunk and ranting about how he wasn’t what his daddy wanted etc.  One of these times he falls over and daughter has to go help him in to bed.

Eventually, tables turn and Mr. Church falls ill and daughter then has to take care of him.  She cooks for him, reads to him, she learns to play the piano…all the things he could do.

Finally Mr. Church dies and you find out that he played piano in a jazz club, he also loved having the daughter and her daughter with him and that he had paid out of his own pocket for the other 5.5 years that he looked after the mother when she was dying at the start of the film.  While he had always been secretive what being with these people had given him was the family he never had.

That is the crux of this film.  There are other small story lines that run throughout the film, but honestly they only add to the characterisation and the relationship between the 2 main protagonists.

I didn’t hate this film. It’s not one I would pick to watch if there were a bigger selection of films available to me at the moment.  This is like a Sunday afternoon film to watch, after you have had a big lunch and want to have some mindless noise on it the background.  This falls in to the “Steel Magnolias” or “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café” genre of films for me.

As mentioned previously, Murphy’s performance comes across as starchy, although it was nice to see him not over acting and not voicing a donkey.

The filming and sets in keep with the timing and era of the piece.  

All in all, this film isn’t bad, rather just not my type of film under usual circumstances.  If you are a true story lover or just slow moving drama fan, this is probably the film for you. 

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