‘Father Stu’ is surprisingly impactful, emphasizes the power of faith

Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of Stuart Long, an amateur boxer turned Catholic priest, in his newest movie “Father Stu,” which comes to theaters on April 13.

Wahlberg calls this movie a passion project of his, and said that this role was amazing not just as a storyteller, but as a man of faith.

“It allowed me to make a major contribution in spreading the word of God and not so much the church, really about the guy who died to build it,” Wahlberg told Chicago student media. “And that was Stu’s mission, that’s where Stu found his purpose.”

Long’s journey shows the power of faith, even if the irony in each step towards Catholicism seems almost laughable. Originally, Long departs for California to become an actor and works in a supermarket in his attempt to “make it.” He then joins the church in an attempt to gain the attention of Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a girl he meets at the supermarket. His conversion to Catholicism is at first spurred by Carmen’s devotion to the church, but it slowly becomes important to him as well. To Carmen’s surprise, Long breaks up with her to pursue the priesthood and it is there that he finds his true purpose.

The movie blends heartfelt moments with comedic relief, seeming almost aware of the absurdity of some of the plot developments. But that also feels intentional. Long’s story is almost unbelievable. Through his belief in God, he gets his family to turn their lives around and reconnects with his father while finding his true purpose in life. He also faces unimaginable odds and, just when things seem like they’re going well for him, he develops an irreversible muscle illness that effectively incapacitates him. In a situation in which a lot of people might act differently, Long uses the opportunity as a way to become closer to God.

“He handled it with dignity and grace, he actually embraced it to the point where he felt like this suffering is bringing me closer to God, give me more of it,” Wahlberg said.

Throughout his journey, every single person doubts him and even laughs in his face when he announces his intention to become a priest. As an audience member, it’s hard not to join in on the laughing. But Long proves his devotion to the church and his intention to further his relationship with God, soon becoming a successful and well-renowned priest by the end of the movie.

Though the story is about Long’s religious journey, it also shows a variety in closeness to God. There’s the relationship Carmen has with God, in which she’s devout and regularly practices going to mass. There’s the relationship Long’s parents have with God, in which they more or less grow their relationship as a result of Long’s passions for the priesthood. Another student on the priesthood track (Cody Fern), reveals later that he never wanted to be a priest, instead it was a track that was forced onto him. Unlike Long, Fern’s character has been raised to pursue the priesthood, but doesn’t feel the same sense of calling to the occupation that Long does. Though a minor storyline compared to Long’s journey, Fern’s character comes to terms with his own passions, even if it’s not the path initially intended.

This movie does a good job at showing a range of relationships to religion, spreading the message that there is not a singular type of relationship to God that is correct. Wahlberg added that the movie is about faith, not Catholicism specifically.

“If Stu had met somebody else who was touched in some sort of other way, he might have went on to pursue some other vocation and faith,” Wahlberg said.

This is a story about faith and, even if you’re not Catholic or religious, there is a message in there about pursuing your passions amid adversity. As a non-religious person, I found enjoying this movie that showcases the journey of a person who had all odds stacked against him.