‘Come Sunday’ explores powerful spiritual journey

Come Sunday is a true gem of a film, one that manages to convey a powerful message in a way that resonates with believers and non-believers alike.

The film is based on an episode from the US-based National Public Radio (NPR) series This American Life and follows the true-life story of Carlton Pearson, the charismatic head of a Pentecostal mega-church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

After learning about the suicide of his unbelieving uncle and seeing news reports of the Rwandan genocide, Pearson undergoes a crisis of faith which leads him to make an outrageous statement during his next sermon: hell isn’t real and all are saved by God in the end (in other words, Universalism).

We then watch Pearson deal with the fallout of his change in beliefs, from losing half his congregation overnight to having close friends and family ostracise him. He is even submitted to a heresy trial by the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops.

Whether or not you agree with Pearson’s theological position, it’s hard not to be moved while watching this film.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Pearson is breathtaking and does an amazing job of expressing the internal struggle the character goes through. Ejiofor brings a surprising amount of depth to this character and it’s hard not to sympathise with him.

The supporting cast is equally brilliant. Jason Segel as Pearson’s best friend Henry is equally torn by Pearson’s revelations but for the opposite reason: he still follows the traditional Pentecostal path and sees his friend’s shift as a personal betrayal of everything they’ve worked for.

Martin Sheen plays Pearson’s mentor Oral Roberts and while I’m not as sympathetic towards this character as others (he flat out says he’s okay with his queer son burning in hell), Sheen does manage to bring a level of nuance to him that he stops short of becoming a stereotype.

The true highlight is Condola Rashad as Gina, Pearson’s wife. Watching her go from an obedient pastor’s wife to a more confident, outspoken woman is truly delightful and Rashad is perfect for the role!

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