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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Charly

I caught myself laughing through parts of this movie because of how accurate Teryll Givens was in describing the three paradoxes of LDS cinema: "searching and certainty" (190), "disintegration of sacred distance" (191), and "isolation and integration" (192). This film follows the relationship of Sam and Charly. Sam is a stereotypical Peter Priesthood type. His day planner runs his life to the point that he has alarms set for when he needs to row his fishing boat. In the first five minutes of the movie it is clear that Sam is a member due to his BYU baseball cap and quick references to Temple Square. Charly on the other hand lives by the motto "Life is for fun." She's loud, witty, and spontaneous. Most importantly, for the purposes of the story, she is not a member of the church. 

In perhaps Sam's most defining moment Charly and Sam talk about her experiences in taking the missionary lessons. She states, "I don't believe any of it." Almost baffled Sam states "You just have to pray." Then, like the good return missionary, he kneels down and says, "Let's pray now, it's pretty secluded." It is clear that Charly is leading him along as she kneels. However, this, more than anything is a springboard for the rest of the discussions on faith and doubt. After Charly's baptism Sam and Charly are looking at the Christos in the Salt Lake Temple visitor's center. Charly asks, "Do you really believe it?" Sam's response, "No. I know it."



It however, becomes unclear if he really knows. When Sam realizes that Charly is not a virgin then he flips out and pushes her away, almost losing her. When they find out that she is terminally ill he breaks down asking for "one lousy miracle". This paradox is a dominant theme in this film. What does it mean to have faith? What is the place of doubt in life? As given states, "It is no wonder that Mormon culture expresses itself in inconsistent bursts of the pat and the provocative, the clich├ęd and the astonished, the complacent and the yearning" (190).

Part of Charly's doubt at the beginning of the film is if God really answers prayers. She does not believe that God is personal and intimate with his children (it may be more accurate to say she does not believe in God). However, after accepting the church's beliefs she has no problem accepting the interpersonal connection that members of the church believe they can have with God. In fact she states, "I've been discussing the whole thing with God. We're very close now, He and I." However, during Charly's blessing near the end of the film it is made clear that Sam is blessing Charly, not God. Sam is struggling with the feeling that his wife is going to die. He will not accept it. He believes his faith will save her. He wants to force his will upon God instead of accepting that they are separate.



If there is any one of the three paradoxes Given's describes in his paper that is less dominate in this film it is the paradox of isolation and integration. Sam has no problem dating a nonmember of the church (something that many member of the church frown upon). The only struggle that is present with Charly is he ex-boyfriend's desire to still live with her after her baptism, but she may want him to leave not only for her newfound faith, but because she has broken up with him.

Overall, this film gives a solid interpretation of LDS culture. Sam's character can be extreme at time, but once Charly rounds him out he becomes a faithful, balanced member of the church. One who has his doubts, but is able to work through them. Charly becomes a strong member who, even in the face of her own death, relies on God and reaches out and touches those around her. 

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