Film Review: The Song

In the faith-based 'The Song,' both the viewer and the lead, Alan Powell, get to have it all—sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll—and still get a redemptive uplift. That’s the reassuring thing about Christianity, at least in this simple but sensual presentation.

In The Song, a film set in Nashville and Kentucky, but with performance sequences around the country and world, sin and forgiveness form the framework for the lead character, Jed (Alan Powell). He’s a singer-songwriter determined to escape the heritage of his dad, a musical legend but a badass whose reprobate ways are briefly seen in the movie’s early backstory. You know right off that it will just be a matter of time before the cycle repeats.

Jed stays on a straight and narrow path through a pretty (and pretty long) exposition showing his courtship of and marriage to Rose—yes, we’re probably meant to think Rose of Sharon—the devoted daughter of a vineyard owner. Rose is played by Ali Faulkner of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. But she only gets to strike one pose, ever: to gaze adoringly at her husband, and be blonde.

He’s a kind of scrubbed-down Joaquin Phoenix type (though Phoenix can do tormented so much better and it hurts so good). He’s most attractive when performing, comfortable in his own skin; this is to be expected—in real life, Powell is a member of a band called Anthem Lights. They describe themselves as “Four Guys Who Have Been Changed by Jesus.”

In case there is any doubt by now, The Song is very much a Christian vehicle, written and directed by Richard Ramsey, himself a pastor. Unfortunately, his simple good-vs.-evil approach takes the form of some awkward freeze-frames and flashbacks as Jed suffers guilt pangs. And sometimes the otherwise cute Powell looks plain silly, especially when his Old Testament-type beard appears to move independently of him when he’s in a repentant state.

The title of the film has manifold (these things are catching) meanings: It refers to the biblical Song of Solomon, and also to a song Jed has written for his wife. When it becomes a hit, the inevitable musician dilemma comes into play. How can Jed integrate his idyllic, peaceful agrarian home life with the urge to perform and the commercial necessity of touring?

It had to happen: On the road he encounters a brunette (of course) temptress type, though even she looks squeaky-clean despite her multiple tattoos and gold tights. As Shelby, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas (TV’s “Nashville”) plays a mean violin and connects with Jed enough to seduce him away from his wife, and even get him hooked on drugs for a while. But a Sid and Nancy-type hotel room scene with an attempted suicide still manages to seem like whitewashed self-destruction in a Howard Johnson.

Watching The Song is like listening to rock music on a religious station; you think, “Not bad for Christian radio.” Yet there is one abomination: the dumbing-down of the biblical Proverbs and Ecclesiastes by excerpting some phrases and dropping them into the narrative at various intervals with a lugubrious voiceover. They sound like Christian tweets.

The Song will, however, inspire you to go back to the Bible to read the full wedding-night description in the Song of Solomon. Now that’s both hot and religious.

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