Movie Review for “The Shack”

I saw “The Shack” when it first hit the big screen with a friend when I was visiting Wisconsin and the message I took away with me, in my opinion, is relevant today.  Let me explain.

Warning:  This review contains spoilers about the movie

Sam Worthington plays Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips and Papa is played by Octavia Spencer.  There are other actors in the movie, however, the plot revolves around Mack and Papa.  If you can get past portrayal of who Papa represents, the message of the movie is clear, in order to forgive yourself, you must forgive those who have wronged you.  I relate on that level because let’s face it, I think most people may remember a time in their lives where they have been “wronged” and hesitant to maybe forgive or not hold a grudge.


Mack is raised by a drunken, abusive father with a short temper and mighty fists.  At the young age of 13, Mack takes matters into his own hands and tries to poison his father with strychnine to put an end to the abuse to himself and his mother.

He marries a wonderful woman, Nan, and has three children, Kate, Josh and Missy, the youngest.  During a camping trip, Kate and Josh have a canoeing accident and Mack is distracted as he tries to save them.  He leaves Missy at a picnic table and tells her to wait and not to move.  When he returns, Missy is gone.  Every parent’s nightmare, a missing child.  The police are called to search for Missy and after finding her clothes in a dirty little shack in the woods, they believe that Missy was the victim of a serial killer on the lose.  Mack is broken and blames himself and he’s angry, unable to move on because he cannot come to terms with the loss of his little girl, blaming himself.  Josh and Kate blame themselves as well for the loss of their sister.  Kate feels like it is all her fault and sinks into a deep depression.  Mack is angry and doesn’t know what to do with the anger.  He tries to suppress it, but can’t.

After receiving a strange invitation from “Papa” in the mail one winter day, he returns to the shack where the clothes of his missing daughter were found.  As he enters the shack and looks around, his rage surfaces and he releases it collapsing on the floor.  Outside the shack, he runs into a stranger who invites him for dinner.  It’s winter and extremely cold, and as Mack follows the stranger, the weather becomes warm and bright.  The path leads to a cozy little house and when Mack walks inside he finds “Papa”, played by Octavia Spencer, and is introduced to a third person.  It’s not apparent at first who the trio represent but as the story unfolds it becomes apparent.  They are there to help Mack work through the grieving process and forgiving not only himself but the serial killer who murdered little Missy.

Push past who the trio represents,  we all have different beliefs, it’s the story behind it that I find interesting.  It takes a lot of energy to continue to fuel hate and less energy to let it go.  We see how fueled hate hurts from the inside out if we don’t let it go.  By letting go of the rage or anger, we give ourselves permission to seek peace and move on with our lives.  The world we live in is filled with hate and prejudice, and the inability to forgive.  We live in a world of instant gratification and cell phone video that invades our private thoughts and lives.  We face each day with the stress of job, family, school, and guilt.  Maybe we feel we are not good enough,  fast enough, or compassionate enough.  Are there times when your enough meter just goes off?  I know mine does.

In my opinion, the movie made me think about the process of healing.  How do I let go?  How do I forgive?  Do I want to forgive or do I choose to keep the rage or anger?  Sometimes we can’t help it, not letting go becomes our purpose in life.  The movie gave me hope that there is a better place, a place where love abounds and we are accepted for who we are.  We cannot control what others do, but we can control our environment.

Until next time……

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