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Content Caution

The Shift 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

Five years ago, Kevin Garner was shifted out of his own reality and into another. There, he met the Benefactor. And the Benefactor offered him a choice.

Option 1: Go back to his own world, where he constantly fought with his wife, where his son had been kidnapped, where he was about to get fired and where he’d just gotten into a bad car wreck.

Option 2: Work for the Benefactor. Shift people out of their own realities in order to make them miserable but have all his dreams come true.

“Let me lift you out of that embarrassing farce you call life and give you something glorious,” the Benefactor whispers.

Every other version of Kevin from every other reality had already agreed to the Benefactor’s terms. They were all living it up.

But this Kevin was different. This Kevin didn’t want another version of his wife, Molly. He didn’t want another version of his son. He wanted his Molly, the one he fell in love with. And he wanted their son.

So rather than give in to the devil, he prayed to God.

Of course, that made the Benefactor furious. Instead of returning Kevin home, the Benefactor left him stranded in a twisted dystopian world with no hope.

But Kevin’s diabolical nemesis may have underestimated him. Sure, the Benefactor may have taken Kevin’s health, wealth, wife and child, but there’s one thing he can’t take away: Kevin’s faith that God will deliver him from evil.

Positive Elements

I’ll unpack a lot of this film’s redemptive content in the Spiritual Elements below. I can say that people apologize for selfish actions, sometimes reconciling with the people they hurt. And when presented with hard choices, some characters choose to act selflessly, even though it’s not what they want to do.

Spiritual Elements

In this story, the Benefactor is Satan. Kevin realizes what’s going on right away, calling the devil a liar and recognizing that his goal is unleashing misery. We’re also shown how the Benefactor has used reality shifting to cause chaos:

The Benefactor and his “shifters” each wear a reality-shifting wristband called a “deviator.” (It’s unclear if these are science-based or supernaturally powered, since the Benefactor has other supernatural powers, such as telekinesis.) They use the deviators to swap folks from one reality to another. (And we’re told that every choice we make breeds a different reality, where we chose path A in the first reality and path B in the next.)

So the Molly that Kevin was arguing with wasn’t actually the Molly he had married. They were arguing because a Kevin from a different reality had made her a promise that this Kevin didn’t even know about.

The Benefactor’s main goal is certainly chaos. But that begs the question of why he’s so frustrated by Kevin’s refusal. Well, that’s because in this story, Kevin represents Job from the Bible. (Kevin tells the story of Job at one point.) And the Benefactor believes he can get Kevin to serve him if he makes Kevin miserable enough to give up hope in God.

But Kevin never stops believing. He types out everything he can remember from the Bible, giving the pages (which are illegal in this dystopian world) to his friend, Gabriel. He donates money and food to those less fortunate than himself, trying to spread hope in this hopeless world. And he gets down on his knees to pray daily, even though God hasn’t clearly answered those prayers in the five years he’s been stuck there.

Some people are affected by Kevin’s goodness. Two parents ask Kevin to tell Bible stories to their daughters after realizing he’s a Christian (and their daughters sing “This Little Light of Mine”). Others act generously after witnessing Kevin’s acts of kindness.

And even though most people in this dystopian world, including the Benefactor himself, insist that Kevin is fooling himself and that God has abandoned him, Kevin refuses to give up hope. He knows that giving in to the devil would be wrong, no matter how much better it might seem to make his life in the short run. And he believes that God will protect him.

We learn that Kevin hadn’t been to church since he was a child before he met Molly. After losing their son, Kevin gives Molly an empty tomb pendant engraved with the words “He lives,” to serve as a reminder of their faith. And later, Molly tells Kevin she knows they’ll see their son again in heaven.

The Benefactor repeatedly tells Kevin that he’s not worthy of God’s love. In retort, Kevin says his identity isn’t defined by the worst thing he’s done, but the Benefactor snidely reminds Kevin that it’s not based on the best thing he’s done either. And that serves as a good reminder to audiences that we aren’t measured by our deeds but by our faith.

[Spoiler Warning] The Benefactor says several times that he is greater than God. However, much like in the story of Job, God eventually delivers Kevin. He returns Kevin’s health and wealth,  and He grants him a new family.

Sexual Content

Kevin and Molly kiss. We also see them in bed together, though fully clothed. Kevin’s shown from the waist up as he showers.

One of Kevin’s doppelgangers lies on a bed with a young woman. Another lounges in a robe on a couch with two women in slightly revealing garments. And still another is seen in a strip club.

[Spoiler Warning] Kevin is eventually reunited with his Molly. However, in her new reality, she and the Kevin divorced after the loss of their son. Kevin apologizes to her for being unable to comfort her during that time (because even in his true reality, they had fought over this). And they part on good terms. Later, Kevin marries a Molly from another universe.

Violent Content

The Benefactor’s dystopian world is a militant state. We’re told that the people here ruined it with war (we see stock footage of guns firing and bombs exploding), and that the shifters removed anyone “deemed problematic,” which included politicians, pastors and soldiers.

Officers in white helmets keep the peace with batons and guns (which they employ liberally). During a blockade, they fire smoke bombs at an angry mob; people flee and hide as the officers shoot guns and chase them away. Three key characters are shot, and one dies. One shooting victim bleeds heavily before he’s able to patch himself up.

Kevin’s car gets T-boned by another vehicle, but he’s unharmed since the Benefactor shifts him to another reality.

A woman is threatened with a knife. Citizens of the dystopian world are told that failure to comply with the Benefactor’s demands means death. Kevin is rough with a couple of people when they refuse to give him what he wants. He also threatens the Benefactor with a gun (though he says he just wants to scare the Benefactor, not kill him). We see bruises on Kevin’s exposed back in one scene. People get into fistfights. The Benefactor uses his telekinetic powers to choke a woman.

Kevin watches his doppelgangers beat people up, drown someone, commit armed robbery and shoot a man in the back of the head.

It is assumed that Kevin and Molly’s son died because all they ever find after his disappearance is his backpack. And the Benefactor admits he can’t shift the boy back since he’s gone forever.

Crude or Profane Language

One use of “p-ss.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Kevin and Molly are both recovering alcoholics when they first meet in a bar. (And Molly convinces Kevin not to break his one year of sobriety.) Flashes of their life show how Molly eventually relapses herself. And the Benefactor orders Kevin a beer upon meeting. (We don’t actually see Kevin drink the beer, but the glass is later seen half-empty.) We also see one of Kevin’s doppelgangers drinking in a bar.

Kevin doesn’t drink in the dystopian universe. However, after a particularly bad day, he digs through the trash looking for booze and finds it. (Though he’s prevented from imbibing when a friend shows up to help him.)

Other Negative Elements

The Benefactor’s world is one where people seemingly have nothing to live for. Many are sick or starving (including Kevin). And one of the ways they deal with this is through “Vica viewing,” which is a way for them to watch other versions of themselves in other realities.

We hear that where once people wanted to see happy versions of their doppelgangers—thus vicariously living through them—now they wish to see their doubles miserable in a twisted attempt to lessen their own misery.

While demonstrating the deviators, the Benefactor shifts a young woman out of the dystopian world into another. However, he explains that since there isn’t another version of her in that other world, she’ll probably go insane and wind up in a psych ward (which we later see is true). The woman’s parents sob after she’s shifted since the Benefactor has actually done this to all of their daughters, and they don’t expect to ever see her again. And we later learn she was married with a child, as well.

A married couple argues. Children are rude to their parents. Folks sometimes break the law. And many people, especially the Benefactor, lie.


The Shift is a science-fiction reimagining of Job’s story from the Bible. And like many multiverse stories, the plot can sometimes be tough to follow.

However, if you can get past some of the kitschier aspects of the plot, there are some great themes and lessons here.

First and foremost, we learn that God has never and will never abandon us. Kevin is put in a world that is chock full of evil, horror, betrayal and inhumanity. But even during his trials, Kevin is able to recognize goodness, kindness, beauty and hope. And he realizes that those things can only exist—can only be seen—because God is there with them. And that hope in God inspires him to act for the benefit of others instead of being selfish (which the Benefactor labels as true evil).

There’s some violence in this dystopian tale. A single vulgarity is uttered. We hear about the kidnapping and death of a child. And we see how grief and lack of communication can take a toll on a marriage.

Families who’ve navigated the book of Job will find this story easier to follow. Still, despite this sci-fi flick’s biblical source material, some of the violence and disturbing images we see in this story’s dystopian world could be disturbing for younger viewers. So I’d advise caution for families with younger children.

But overall, this is a story where God triumphs over the devil—where He proves He has always triumphed over Satan. Frankly, I can’t think of a better ending than that.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.