It's not like Brady asked for the truck.
He would've been just fine with an iPad. Or a guitar, perhaps. Or, oh, I don't know, maybe a really nice, multicolored coat. Brady already knows his pa, Jake, loves him. Dad doesn't need to rub it in.
'Cause frankly, Jake's favoritism is causing some friction in the family. Jake married twice, you see, but it doesn't sound like he was ever all that fond of his first missus. And while the four sons she brought him were big, strapping lads and all, Jake never really loved them—not as he loved the two boys given to him by his second (and now sadly departed) spouse. Yes, Brady and youngest son Logan are the apple fritters in Jake's box of donuts: The other sons? He treats 'em like day-olds with the wrong kind of frosting.
You could argue that Brady's bros aren't quite as deserving of love and trust as Brady is, what with them sauntering over to the pool hall every afternoon to drink. Still, the favoritism is galling to all of them, particularly to Ryan. Why, Ryan knows deep down that he'd run the ranch just as well as Brady could. Better, in fact. The idea that the old man seems set on giving every last acre to his favorite little boy seems completely unfair. Sure, Ryan and his brothers aren't perfect. But Brady's not either. Doesn't Jake see how annoying the kid can be, interpreting all those stupid dreams? And where does Brady get off telling us his dreams? You know, the ones where the whole family has to come crawling to him for help?
The truck—that blasted red truck Brady got for his birthday—was the last straw.
One afternoon when Brady drives out to the back 40 to check on his brothers, Ryan punches him in the face. And then he does it again for good measure, you know, to drive the point home. And then again just for the pure fun of it. Pretty soon, almost all of Brady's brothers are administering a wicked beatdown—culminating in Ryan holding a hot branding iron onto Brady's chest.
Clearly a line's been crossed. Ryan and his brothers can't have Brady crawling back home to tattle, can they? So they bribe a trucker to take their brother far, far away and plunk Brady's nice, shiny pickup into the drink. He must've crashed it and died, they apparently tell old Jake.
That might've been the end of the story. Brady could've been carted off to who-knows-where and disappeared, just like Ryan wanted him to. Jake and Logan would've grieved. Ryan and his siblings-in-crime would've gotten away with their diabolical deed.
Except, it seems, that God had other plans.
Seasons of Gray is a retelling of the story of Joseph (from Genesis 37-46, if you need a refresher), and as such it teaches a lot of the same goodly lessons we learn from the original. Brady, we know, has reason to sulk after he's shipped off by his brothers. He has reason to be bitter when his boss's wife accuses him of a sexual assault he didn't commit, causing him to be tossed in the clink. And for a while, he is pretty angry about the whole deal.
But eventually he does what most of us try to do and what we all should do: the best he can. He moves on. He forgives. In the end, he sees that everything that happened to him was guided by an unseen and loving hand. But perhaps God wouldn't have done that nice bit of work without Brady allowing it. He could've stayed sullen and drank his life away in a bar. He could've rotted away in prison, hurting and pushing everyone away. But he doesn't. Brady keeps his eyes and mind open to what God is trying to do. And that opens some pretty amazing doors for him.
Brady gets quite a bit of help from those around him too. After he's dumped in the big city by the trucker, a musician/office mailroom worker named Chris picks the poor guy up and, sacrificially, invites him to live with him. Sure, most of us know better than to pick up strays, much less invite them to live with us for an indeterminate period of time. But it's also true that God does tell us to invite strangers in when they need our help, and it's certainly the literal pick-me-up that Brady needs.
Brady falls for a woman named Kate. And even when he's jailed on sexual assault charges filed by the aforementioned boss's wife, neither Chris nor Kate desert him. "I wanted you to know that you're not alone," she tells him. And while Brady's not receptive to Kate's kindness at first, that doesn't mitigate the fact that she is very, very kind to him.
Even Brady's prison pals offer some much-needed support. A handful of convicts take him under their wing, becoming the brothers he should've had outside.
The writer of Genesis "spoiled" this plot point long ago, so I'll just plow right through it: Brady's own flesh-and-blood kin finally apologize for the beating and branding. And Brady accepts their penitence—a nice message of the importance of forgiveness. Hugs are offered all around, and it would seem that they do all live happily ever after.
That is, until the sequel I can already see in my head, when a new, evil CEO of the company Brady works for slaps the Gray family's descendants with a series of vicious lawsuits, submerging them with debt that's only payable by a life of hard labor and servitude.
Where is God when we're going through tough times? Where is He when life isn't fair? Is He with us in our suffering? Is He the cause of it?
Seasons of Gray ruminates on these questions and comes, naturally, to the same conclusions Joseph did so long ago: "What you did to hurt me," he tells his brothers, "God used for good." Indeed, the movie suggests, God's love was right there with him as Brady suffered.
The movie's makers know that this can be a hard spiritual truth to accept, especially when we're in the midst of our own suffering. Brady suffers a great deal at first in prison—a little physically, a lot emotionally. But by God's grace, he meets a spiritual mentor who helps guide him back to a better place. That mentor gives him a piece of paper that reads, "Everybody trusts God on a good day with $20 in their pocket," and asks Brady if he's willing to "trust His [God's] hands to make something out of all this mess." This man of God, though imprisoned, is renowned for spreading the Word, and he speaks of God and Jesus often. When an inmate dies, it is he who prays over the grave.
Elsewhere, Logan gives Brady a locket bearing both a picture of their deceased mother and her favorite Bible verse, 1 John 4:19: "We love because He first loved us." Brady and his father bow their heads in prayer. We see Brady read the Bible. And he has the ability to interpret dreams—a gift he says God gave him. But Ryan, annoyed with Brady, tells him that "just because Dad thinks that you're God's gift doesn't mean you are."
Brady is aggressively propositioned by Julia, his boss's wife. She backs him up to a book cabinet and begins unbuttoning his shirt before he puts a stop to it—fleeing the room, just like we've read so many times that Joseph did. Before he can leave the house (where a big birthday party is going on), Julia stumbles out of the bedroom, her dress obviously ripped and mussed, screaming that Brady attacked her. (He's sent to prison for sexual assault and attends group therapy for sex offenders.)
There's a huge positive in Brady's response to Julia's advances, of course. And the way he conducts his romantic relationship with Kate also defies the trends of movie romances. Their chasteness is remarkable, with the most physical affection we see from them being Brady pressing a locket into her hands.
Chris offhandedly calls Brady "sexy," and he flirts with a girl using some atrociously lame come-ons. A lady buys Brady a drink at a bar and comes over to flirt with him.
Brady gets into a life-altering tussle with his brothers, which leaves both he and Ryan bloodied (Brady significantly more so). We don't see the branding iron touch Brady's chest, but do see the scar later. Brady gets slugged by his boss, too. And in prison, he triggers a fight with a fellow inmate (leading to a stint in solitary confinement). He tells Kate about watching two inmates stab each other to death. One of his prison pals winds up dead as well. (How he died isn't known; we see a glimpse of his corpse.) A girl nearly dies. (She's found unconscious on the kitchen floor.)
Crude or Profane Language
At worst, scattered crude exclamations like "nut up," "bust your butt" and "beat the snot."
Drug and Alcohol Content
We see Ryan drink from a flask-like bottle, and Jake accuses his sons of "burning daylight drinking." After Jake thinks Brady's dead, we see him drinking (something) in despair. There's alcohol at a party. Brady watches Chris perform at a bar, and we see glasses of beer around the establishment. When Chris sits down next to Brady and tells the bartender, "I'll have what he's having," gesturing to Brady, Chris is disappointed to be served water.
Other Negative Elements
We see that a girl has thrown up.
Conceived and produced by Watermark Community Church of Dallas, Seasons of Gray presents one of the Bible's most compelling and oft-told stories in a fresh, interesting way. It dives into the ancient messages of Genesis while grappling with many of the modern-day issues Christians face: Where is God when I'm hurting? How can I forgive those who caused me pain? How can I find—and trust—the love of God when everything around me feels so messy and broken?
Two days before I watched this movie, I was talking with another film critic at a screening of Riddick. He said something rather profound, I think—that many movies today aren't really stories. Indeed, they're pitched as a mishmash of concepts and stars and special effects. You can almost picture 2013's version of The Lone Ranger getting greenlit through the promise of Johnny Depp and train wrecks. Getaway on the backs of Selena Gomez and car crashes. Insidious Chapter 2 on jump scenes and assailing demons.
The story—very clearly—is an afterthought.
Not so for Seasons of Gray. It is first and second and last a story. A story told without apology or a lot of excess window dressing. And that's a great thing (for Christian movies and secular alike). Because story, far more than star power or CGI, draws us.