Kevin Sorbo’s recent film entitled, “Abel’s Field,” tells the story of Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis), a troubled high school senior trying to save what’s left of his family following his mother’s death and father’s abandonment, and his friendship with a mysterious tattooed drifter named Abel (Sorbo). It’s essentially a modern retelling of Cain and Abel in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, and currently airs on gmc tv.
I watched it on several occasions, hoping to see something new in each airing. Whereas, I like this movie, its actors and particularly the dialogue and interaction between characters and actors, I discovered the same confusion with its plot’s holes every time that prevented me from giving “Abel’s Field” my complete adoration.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a fantastic, family-oriented, faith-based film written by Aron Flasher and directed by Gordie Haakstad that deserves accolades, particularly for Davis and Sorbo, but as scripts go, there are too many unanswered questions and realistically unbelievable scenarios.
Seth, whose main responsibility is the care of his seven-year-old twin sisters, Mary and Cary (Catie and Elizabeth Duff) in his parents’ absence, tries to earn an honest living by working two jobs as well as attending classes in order to pay the bills and save his home from foreclosure. He receives regular bullying from his school’s football heroes, mainly the quarterback Billy (William Buchanan), until he finally cracks and fights back.
The school’s football coach, Coach Chalmers (Richard Dillard), decides that Seth must help Abel, the school’s janitor, install a sprinkler system in the hallowed football field prior to the big homecoming game, a major event at most high schools, as retribution. But, Seth has other commitments, including to his sisters, his two other jobs and a popular girl named Katie (Nichole Elliott) with whom he connects after helping to open her car after she left the keys inside but who is dating his nemesis, Billy.
Seth is overwhelmed by his adult duties. His frustration simmers like a low-boiling pot despite the well-intended intervention of his local pastor (Trent Moore). He seeks help from his older brother, Keith (Joe Ward), who repeatedly spurns him. Finally, he turns to the one source that seems to understand his situation although they are worlds apart: Abel.
The direct Abel offers wisdom and guidance when necessary, yet remains guarded, harboring a deep secret of his own. He wanders off to pray on his knees in an open field and sketches in a very private, leather-bound book. His pot also simmers on low, and when he and Seth clash he inexplicably explodes in a brief “You know nothing about me” tirade.
The two depart, and Seth faces a decision that could change his life forever for good or bad. Abel saves him from himself, setting the scene for the film’s denouement.
As I said, I like this movie, but my main problems are:
- Realistically who would expect a 17-year-old to bear such responsibilities? Wouldn’t Child Protective Services have intervened? And what bank would consider a minor responsible for any debt?
- Who are the various people mentioned with seemingly some importance, but without reference, such as Seth’s babysitter who leaves an ambiguous note on the refrigerator, and Linda, who becomes Aunt Linda later?
- In the beginning, Keith isn’t obviously Seth’s brother… Who is this guy? We don’t understand this until almost the movie’s end.
- And what of the bullying by Billy – it’s sort of obvious, but sort of isn’t, even though this is supposedly the film’s underlying motif.
Then there are some editing issues as if there is only one camera… choppy, maybe stylistic at best, emulating Scorsese? Or maybe I missed that.
Also, the ending spends too much time covering the football game and not enough expanding Sorbo’s exceptional character and his eventual surprising confession. And the time frame between Abel’s scenes that paralleled the actual game is noticeably different.
Sorbo excels at exploring a dark, subtle side of him that as an actor is so completely believable and compelling that I wanted to see more of what drove his intriguing, powerful presence… what made him tick?
The film would have definitely profited by adding more of Abel’s background, particularly via the images in his book… What were they? What made them important/private? Why did he draw? And what clues did they offer to his dark secrets? After all, the title is, “Abel’s Field”… I expected Abel to be the lead, not just a catalyst for Seth.
The film’s main theme to me is, “Seek and ye shall find,” although I have read other accounts that maintain it is redemption. But, one must seek and find before one asks for anything, especially redemption, a tattoo that Abel displays on his upper chest as a reminder to himself for reasons that you will see when you watch this movie.
Seth receives encouragement from those around him to pray to God for help with his situation on several occasions, to seek and find, but disregards them all, citing his mother’s death and how God didn’t listen when he prayed. He eventually succumbs, thereby learning the lesson that to give your life to the Lord is to receive grace, forgiveness, redemption and peace.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say this: Consider Cain and Abel… Watch this movie… Do you see the parallels?
And regarding the title… “Abel’s Field”… Sure, it’s the football field, but, Abel prays alone in a vast field… Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd… Murder Most Foul?
I absolutely recommend this inspirational film. The interaction between Sorbo and Davis is stellar. Their dialogue and actions are as natural as if they were meant for their interesting, dichotomous roles. I hope that Sorbo garners next year’s Grace Award for “Most Inspiring Performance in Movies,” repeating his 2010 win for his portrayal of Ben Walker in the Jenkins Entertainment movie, “What If…,” because he certainly deserves it for “Abel’s Field.”
“Abel’s Field” is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Buy it today!
(Photos courtesy of Kevin Sorbo)