Using C.S. Lewis’ own words, The Most Reluctant Convert follows the author’s trek to Christianity
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For one night only on Nov. 3, theaters nationwide will screen The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis adapted from the original stage play by Max McLean. The film gives an absorbing glimpse into the faith journey of one of the 20th century’s most influential authors.
Lewis, an avowed atheist from age 14, explained his trek to Christianity in his many writings. But thanks to this film’s concise script, the influences and turning points in his life emerge in about 70 entertaining minutes, showing how he ultimately rejected godless philosophies and dedicated his life and works to Christ.
Three different actors ably portray Lewis as a boy (Eddie Ray Martin), a young man (Nicholas Ralph), and older man (McLean). An opening scene shows the makeup crew prepping McLean, who also played Lewis in his one-man show the film is based on. He looks down, pauses, then gazes up into the camera, transformed into Lewis’ persona. The story begins, taking viewers to the places Lewis frequented in England—replete with steam engine trains and smoky pubs.
The older Lewis walks us through his story, sometimes mere steps behind the younger Lewis dramatizing the same scene. He narrates mostly from Lewis’ own beautifully written words. The long soliloquies are worth listening to closely, yet may be hard for children to grasp.
Lewis describes a happy childhood until his mom’s death from cancer—despite his fervent prayers—when he was a young teen. This, and the drastic change in his father afterward, influenced his break from his Christian upbringing. He took his first communion unbelieving, “eating and drinking my own condemnation.”
The young man Lewis, played by Ralph (best known for his role in the PBS series All Creatures Great and Small) heads to Surrey for rigorous teaching from an atheist tutor. Lewis plunges into classical, mostly secular works, and veers into materialism and even the occult. But one day, while rummaging in a bookstore, he discovers a fantasy novel by Christian writer George MacDonald that resets his moral compass: “My imagination was baptized. The rest of me took a little longer.”
Viewers learn how God used Lewis’ unrelenting pursuit of truth and numerous circumstances to slowly draw him. It covers how Lewis sustained a critical injury in World War I and later befriended Christians at Oxford University, including J.R.R. Tolkien, who challenged his thinking. He had to decide if Jesus was a liar, lunatic, or Lord.
After his conversion, Lewis said, “That walk marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another.” That beginning inspired a remarkable new life for Lewis, profiting us all.
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