The Gospel in "The Descendants"

If you intend to go and see The Descendants do not read this, for it contains movie spoilers. It won the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture drama, though “Moneyball” and “The Help” were also excellent movies. George Clooney also deservedly won Best Actor for his lead role in the movie. My last movie review was The Social Network, which was about how Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook.

The movie set in Hawaii is about a rich man played by George Clooney, whose wife is dying and on life support following a boating accident. He is left to care for his 2 problematic daughters, 17 and 10 years old. Before the accident, Clooney had been an indifferent husband and an uninvolved father. He finds out from his older daughter that his wife was having an affair before the accident, and that she was planning on divorcing him. As a result, he now has to deal with his highly conflicted emotions of a betrayed husband while his wife is dying.

It is a humorous and tragic movie that is engaging and captivating because it captures the emotions of the major characters quite realistically. The older daughter is very angry with her dying mother because of her affair. His father-in-law bluntly and accusingly blames Clooney for his daughter’s accident and for him being unworthy of his daughter. The man who had the affair with his wife pleads with Clooney not to tell his own wife when Clooney finally finds and confronts him. The wife of the man nonetheless finds out and in an angry and tearful scene cries in anger and sorrow while attempting to forgive the dying woman for trying to destroy her family. The final dramatic scene is when Clooney confesses his love for his dying wife in the hospital with heart felt tears, despite all that she had put him through. A poignant line is when he says through tears before her dying body that you are “my pain” and “my joy.”

I’ve often expressed that movies that capture the hearts of audiences generally have a gospel theme in the movie. We are all like the dying woman who has been unfaithful to her husband, yet the husband loves her. His love for her was not based on her love for him. Though he was angry and conflicted because of her betrayal, he professed his heart felt love for her as she died. In this movie, the gospel theme is the love of Clooney for his wife, though she was clearly not worthy of his love. Nonetheless he loved her (Jer 31:3). This is the gospel of our salvation. This is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

Perhaps, I am reading too much into this movie. But movies like this (and other movies too) may be an excellent opportunity to show and point to the gospel of God’s grace that is greater than all our sins, betrayal and unfaithfulness.


  1. My most recent gospel-like movie experience was “Gran Torino” with Clint Eastwood.  It was on HBO or Star Movie in a hotel, so I watched and was very much surprised by the ending.  It’s very much like the Gospel.  Even wrote a blog post in Russian, “A Gospel way to die” :-)

    • Gran Torino is a very good movie in many ways. It is surely “A Gospel Way To Die!” Also, Clint Eastwood is probably my favorite “macho” actor of all time, even in his old age.

    • Just an off topic note: I really want to see Gran Torino. It was filmed down the street from where we live.