A hot tip on the deadly drug Fentanyl, that’s burning through the streets of Atlanta, catapults burned-out reporter Brian Sanderson into the dim, dank underbelly of Atlanta. Estranged from his family, and in the midst of his investigation, Brian learns of his son’s murder. As he searches for answers and the son he never knew, questions tear at the fabric of his life, revealing a story of soul-shaking proportions. From the elite power personalities to the forgotten street people, Brian is led deeper and deeper into a story that will shake the city to its core. Ultimately, Brian makes a decision with eternal consequences as he comes face to face with two men he never knew: himself, and the man who was his child.
Modern Prodigal fearlessly tackles the issue of addiction and drug abuse in a creative, modern way leaning on a classic Bible story of the son who runs away from home and squanders all he has before returning home to his father’s loving arms. However, in this rendition, the son never makes it home, and the father doesn’t have it all together himself. Brian Sanderson is a flaky alcoholic struggling with a six-year-old divorce and a waning career as a journalist. His son, Michael, is the apple of his eye, while his elder son, David, does everything he can to vie for his father’s attention. When Michael ends up on the streets due to his opiate addiction, Brian falls into a downward spiral, soothing himself with prescription pain meds and booze.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for many families today. A lot of our prodigal children (and even prodigal parents, siblings, etc.) don’t ever get the chance to come home. Modern Prodigal brilliantly explores the gritty world of addiction, while simultaneously exposing the silent corruption of prescription drug abuse. I love the heartbreaking imagery of Brian, a “high-functioning” addict, trying to rescue the memory of his son, a “street” addict. This is an extremely important conversation that the body of Christ needs to be a voice in, and Modern Prodigal dives in headfirst, making sure the issues cannot be ignored.
Self-described as a “Christian film for non-Christians,” this film has an important plight, but comes across very subtly on the Christian message. This was obviously a delicate and intentional decision made by the filmmakers to draw others into the story without feeling alienated, and I commend them. However, I do wish there were a clearer indication of what faith the characters are being impacted by. At times, it can seem like the film is trying too hard to be gritty—it’s about drug addiction; you can’t get much gritter than that, by nature. The ending is a tad rushed, but overall, this is a well-crafted story that is timely and necessary. I think the filmmakers did an excellent job creating an artful story with an important purpose. This is a film that I could see being used to open up conversations in many communities and faith groups, especially with young people and those who have been touched by addiction.
Modern Prodigal has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for Ages 18+.
The Dove Take:
Modern Prodigal flips a classic parable on its head to deliver a impactful message that is much needed today.