PROVO, Utah — In an increasingly fast-paced culture, “His Only Son,” the biblical drama from the studio behind “The Chosen,” is encouraging audiences to pause, reflect and meditate on the power of the Gospel ahead of Easter.
From Angel Studios, “His Only Son” hit theaters on March 31 and dramatizes Genesis 22, the biblical passage in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, on the mountain of Moriah.
Starring Lebanese film and TV actor Nicolas Mouawad as Abraham, Sara Seyed as Sarah and Edaan Moskowitz as Isaac, "His Only Son" is the debut film from creator David Helling, a former U.S. Marine.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Helling revealed that he wanted the film to serve as a reminder that the Lord simply asks for obedience and is present at all times — even amid the chaos, pain and uncertainty prevalent in society.
“During this Easter season, [this film is] surrounded by all these big explosions and ‘bang, bang, pow’ films at the box office,” he said. “And this is a very meditative piece to remember that the Lord is in every moment. He is with you. If you're His, if you're in Christ, He's with you. And He's working all of your problems out for good.”
“We've been in a very dark period of time, and we’re so quick to swing to self-help culture, ‘I'm going to work it off myself,'" he added. "That's nothing new. That’s been since the beginning of time; Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves. They said, ‘I'm going to cover myself and fix my own problems.’ And we see in Scripture that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. It was through faith alone, by grace alone. And so, it's a reminder to just love the Lord, keep His commandments, trust in Him, and know that He's working it out for your good.”
“His Only Son” is the first theatrical film to crowdfund for marketing funds to pay for distribution and advertising expenses. In partnership with Angel Studios, the film’s crowdfunding campaign raised more than $1,235,000 for prints and advertising costs.
And already, audiences have demonstrated their hunger for such a film. Created with a mere $250,000 and released in 1,200 theaters, the film took in more than $5.5 million, placing it behind “John Wick: Chapter 4,” according to Box Office Mojo.
For Helling, “His Only Son” is the culmination of years of work. He used the G.I. Bill — a scholarship program for veterans — to fund his stint at film school and taught himself to sew, do visual effects and make costumes. He shared how the film was birthed out of painful and dark moments in his own life, waiting to see the fruits of his labor.
“I've been working on this for five-and-a-half-years,” he said. “And so just to meditate on the truth of what the Lord was doing in Abraham's life and the waiting that he had to do … and the waiting on Him to get this film out, I never knew how much the film would minister to my own heart, in my own trial, in my own waiting, and in some of the darkest nights I've experienced in doing this film. It’s been a great salve over my wounds.”
Though largely true to the biblical account of Abraham and Isaac, “His Only Son” does take some creative liberties with the story. It follows Abraham, Isaac and their two servants as they journey three days to the place where the offering will be made, encountering a series of dangers along the way. Rated PG-13, the film grapples with difficult themes like abandonment and doubt and features some scenes of violence.
Helling shared how he drew on the expertise of biblical scholars and theologians to ensure the script didn’t diverge from biblical accuracy and was “prayerful, every step of the way.”
“You have the account of God's Word that's been given to us, that is the skeleton, and you don't want to put those bones out of joint,” he said. “But to make a film, you have to put flesh on the bones. That starts with prayer, with the study of God's Word, and see where other parts of Scripture point to Abraham … and then from there, you look at the archaeological and anthropological record. And then you start looking at Jewish tradition and historians, all to build an accurate representation.”
“Once you have that all formed, you put it in front of sound brothers and sisters in script form, and say, ‘Hey, check me on this. Is this anything that looks against your conscience? Is there anything out of order here to make sure it's right, doctrinally?’ Because that is key.”
Through a series of flashbacks, viewers see Abraham and his wife, Sara, struggle as they wait for the son God promised them — a son they are eventually asked to sacrifice. The film shows how Abraham at times wrestled with God, growing weary of waiting on His timing.
Humanizing Abraham, and not portraying him as a flawless hero, Mouawad said, was of the utmost importance.
“I was concerned with making Abraham more human, more vulnerable, more sensitive, more like a human being so that people can relate to him … my concern was to make him more human than how we usually see biblical characters described,” he said. “I think that this will make people relate to him and will make them see, ‘Oh, Abraham is a human being. So, if he did this, I can do this. I can try as much as I can to be like him. He's not like kind of an untouchable superhero that I will never relate to.’”
Mouawad shared how studying the person of Abraham and bringing the story to life transformed his own heart: “Being able to take some of Abraham's traits and his obedience to God, his patience, his sureness that God is doing something in all this, regardless how hard life might have been, is something I learned a lot from,” he said. “I think it's a beautiful blessing to be able to experience such a character so that you can have this for the rest of your life.”
Similarly, Sara’s frustrations with God are highlighted as she struggles with barrenness, eventually giving her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to Abraham to bear him a son. But ultimately, it was Sara who would give birth to Isaac, the son that would carry on the family line that eventually brought forth Jesus.
“Sara was so committed to this process that she actually let go of all of her preconceived notions and then became part of this movement, this journey, and very rarely do we see people who become part of a story that is bigger than themselves,” Seyed told CP.
“Sara is that character. She embarked upon this journey, full of doubt for many reasons, not a believer in a lot of ways. … The sacrifices she made [were on par] with Abraham’s, if not as obviously. I think the beauty of this film is that in a lot of ways, faith-based films and religious films tend to portray women as on the side, in the shadows. But this film beautifully portrays the journey of a woman who was willing to do everything for this to come to fruition, for this man to change the course of history.”
Ahead of Good Friday and Easter, the filmmaker and cast behind “His Only Son” expressed hope that the film not only entertains and informs viewers of relevant biblical history, but points them to Jesus and the promise of eternity.
“We want to entertain people, but that's not primary,” Helling said. “Primary is the eternal work in doing these films.”
“His Only Son” is now in theaters. For more information on this film and how to purchase tickets visit angel.com/son.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com