Father Stu (AU-M/UK-15/US-R)

In a Word: Honest

Father Stu2

Mark Wahlberg stars as Fr Stuart Long in 'Father Stu'.

The extraordinary tale of amateur boxer and actor-turned Catholic priest Stuart Long, Father Stu is an inspirational story of how God's transformative power can radically change a life.

"Directed by Gibson's partner Rosalind Ross, Father Stu is a warts-and-all look at Long's life, including the brokenness of his family and the many challenges he faces not only in his own journey to find God but to follow the calling he comes to believe has been laid on him."

Stu, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a struggling boxer from a broken family still trying to come to terms with the loss of their eldest son (and his elder brother). With a virtually non-existent relationship with his father Bill (Mel Gibson), Long is still living with his mother Kathleen (Jacki Weaver) when, after yet another bout with the law and little hope of being able to make a living as a boxer, he decides to throw it all in and to head to LA to make a new start there as an actor. 

Things don't go to plan there either but Stu, while manning the butcher's counter at a local supermarket does met Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and it's in a bid to secure a date with her that he starts attending the local Catholic church. But Stu continues to struggle with the lure of his past life and it's only after a near-death experience that he has a spiritual encounter which leads him to make the decision that he is to become a Catholic priest. But that's only the start of the most intense fight he's ever faced as he faces not only pushback from the church but an extremely rare and incurable degenerative disease he's soon diagnosed with.

Directed by Gibson's partner Rosalind Ross, Father Stu is a warts-and-all look at Long's life, including the brokenness of his family and the many challenges he faces not only in his own journey to find God but to follow the calling he comes to believe has been laid on him.

This is not a sugar-coated faith-based film - be warned that there's plenty of coarse language as we are taken inside Long's life and family dynamics (check the ratings) - but there's some moments of humour as well as we see Long's personality on full display.

Wahlberg, who has previously commented on the parallels between Father Stu's life and his own, delivers what is mostly a strong performance as the at-times charming, at-times obnoxious and always headstrong, Long. Gibson is well cast as Stu's troubled father as is Weaver who plays his mother while Malcolm MacDowell, who performs the role of seminary head Monsignor Kelly, does a solid job of representing aspects of the official church, both in its rigidness and in its love.

Depicting a life characterised by struggle, this biopic depicts an unvarnished account of Stu Long's life and his personal - and certainly not straight-forward - story of redemption. Its overarching messages - that no-one is beyond God's reach and the positive role faith can play in our suffering - is one we can all afford to be reminded of.