"The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis," a film tracing C.S. Lewis' journey from passionate atheist to one of the most influential Christian writers of the past century, is hitting PureFlix just in time for Christmas.
The film, directed by two-time Emmy and BAFTA winner Norman Stone and adapted from Lewis' memoir, Surprised by Joy, will be available to stream on PureFlix on Christmas Eve.
"The Most Reluctant Convert" stars Max McLean as an adult Lewis, Nicolas Ralph (All Creatures Great & Small) as college-age Lewis and Eddie Ray Martin as child-age Lewis.
The film dramatizes some of the events that led to a young Lewis' atheism — from the death of his mother to his traumatic experience in the trenches of World War I.
"Lewis lost his mother at 9 years old to cancer, had a terrible relationship with his father," McLean told The Christian Post. "He saw the brutality of World War I, the butchery of it. And he came to the conclusion that there's no God behind the universe, a god indifferent to good and evil, or worse, an evil god. So that was his starting point."
The movie, which has been applauded by critics and even moved theologian Tim Keller to tears, was filmed in 18 locations in and around Oxford, England.
It follows Lewis as he grapples with questions of God's existence and the impact his friends, including The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, had on his faith journey.
McLean told CP that through "The Most Reluctant Convert," he hopes viewers "see the God that Lewis sees" while also watching his journey from "vigorous debunker to true believer."
The acclaimed theater actor, who has spent years of his life adapting Lewis' work for the stage, said that Tolkein appealed to Lewis' intellect and imagination, giving him a way to understand Jesus.
"[Lewis] said … 'If I find myself in desire that no experience in this world could satisfy, the most probable explanation is I was made for another world.' And that other world is what he was always drawn to and helped others to see as well," McLean said.
McLean previously adapted Lewis' books The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce for the stage. And to play the author himself, the actor memorized hours of Lewis' quotes and writings. He described Lewis as a truth-seeker and a huge personality who "sucked the air out of the room when he came in."
"He was bigger than life," he contended. "Before he was a Christian, he was stubborn and bullish. So, he had to tame that. … He channeled it; he humbled himself."
Lewis, who died in 1963, is one of the best-known Christian authors of all time. His fiction writings have been turned into a number of television and film projects, including the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and three movies produced by Sony Pictures that grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide.
A stage production of his book The Horse and His Boy will open at the Museum of the Bible's World Stage Theater on Jan. 20 and will run more than 40 performances. The Horse and His Boy is Lewis' fifth book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.
McLean credited Lewis' staying power to his "ability to capture the imagination about this other world, to get us beyond the here and now, this world.
"He wants us to think of the next world. … It was the way he expressed the other world that made me fall in love with him because it makes me want to go there," he said.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org