Letters To God, The Latest in Evangelical-Oriented Entertainment


The latest offering in evangelical-oriented entertainment, Letters To God tells the story of an eight year-old boy who copes with cancer by sending heartfelt epistolary prayers through the mail, which in turn inspire his whole suburban community. “Write a letter to God,” an ailing Tyler (Tanner Maguire) advises his older brother. “It’s like texting your best friend.” Like most fundamentalist fare, the film works unapologetically in the style of sloganeering after-school specials. In dramatic terms, the problem with devotionals is that the endpoint is always foreordained; they’re all about answers (the answer, in fact), not questions. But this weakness is also the genre’s promise. One doesn’t turn to these movies for escapism or suspense, but for comfort and affirmation. Letters To God performs this service adequately, even pleasantly—save for the morbid teasing out of Tyler’s demise. Yet spirituals also have an evangelical imperative, which pushes them beyond benign anti-drama to hard sell propaganda. Tyler doesn’t just die a good boy, a believer, and a saint: He dies a crusading missionary, his cancer exploited to convert everyone from the mailman to his 8 year-old classmates. With little in the way of story or spectacle to offer non-believers, the film itself just preaches to the choir.