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Faith-based 'All Saints' shares poignant true story of a Tennessee church farm
Ye Win (Nelson Lee) instructs the Rev. Michael Spurlock (John Corbett) where to plant each of the crops to be grown in the fields at All Saints Church in All Saints." - photo by Josh Terry
"ALL SAINTS" 3 stars Cara Buono, John Corbett, Barry Corbin, David Keith, Gregory Alan Williams; PG (thematic elements); in general release

According to director Steve Gomers All Saints, the blessings we want are not always the blessings we need.

All Saints is based on the true story of Michael Spurlock, an Episcopalian pastor in Tennessee who starts a farm with a group of Karen refugees in order to save their church.

Michael (John Corbett) is a young pastor with a reputation for pushing back against authority when he disagrees with the direction hes given. When he and his wife, Aimee (Cara Buono), are assigned to the All Saints Episcopal Church in rural Smyrna, Tennessee, they assume its going to be a short stay. Thanks to a dwindling congregation and a steep mortgage, All Saints has already been put up for sale, and Michael is mostly expected to preside over its closure. To the dismay of Aimee, who teaches choir, there isnt even a piano in the chapel.

This harsh reality causes tension between the pastor and his new flock, especially with a local farmer named Forrest (Barry Corbin). Forrests wife, Mary-O (Angela Fox), relocates to a nearby megachurch, convinced she has no future at All Saints and, even though he stays behind, Forrest cant bring himself to give Michael any slack.

Then inspiration comes in the form of a group of Burmese refugees the Karen who arrive hoping to worship according to the Anglican faith they followed back home. Michaels heart goes out to them instantly, and he works to find them jobs and food. Then, realizing he has acres of church property and a team of willing farmers, he feels inspired to start a farm that will hopefully save All Saints.

Naturally, theres resistance from the regional Episcopalian leadership, including Michaels liaison, Bishop Eldon Thompson (Gregory Alan Williams), and starting a viable farm soon presents many more obstacles than the new pastor expects. But Michaels natural stubbornness kicks in, and, convinced he is doing Gods will, he forges ahead with his personal field of dreams.

Along the way, Michael and the Karen who are led by Ye Win (Nelson Lee), one of the only refugees who speaks English encounter numerous setbacks. But the pastor and his team continue to move forward, winning hearts one by one (Ye Win is able to connect with Forrest, who is a Vietnam veteran), and even getting surprise help from unexpected sources.

Though at times All Saints feels as if it is heading for a clichd conclusion, its poignant story manages to share a lesson that sometimes doing the right thing can come along with unintended consequences, good and bad. Corbett is indispensable to the effort, anchoring the film with his strong veteran presence, and he does an excellent job of portraying a sympathetic strong-willed character whose rough edges are being worn away onscreen.

All Saints isnt a perfect film, and sometimes its low-key tone makes its stakes feel muted. But its periodic missteps and minor shortcomings dont distract from its big heart and uplifting, sobering message. In the genre of faith-based films, Gomers effort does a good job of being candid about its faith without becoming preachy and serves as an appealing illustration of the principles it espouses.

"All Saints" is rated PG for thematic elements; running time: 108 minutes.
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