Conversations With God
Co-written by Walsch and Eric DelaBarre, and directed by Stephen Simon, Conversations With God portrays the actual spiritual pilgrimage of Walsch, leading to his stardom as the author of the book by the same title, and rise to a celebrity– a spiritual messenger to millions around the world.
Review: Conversations With God
Something besides the subject makes this film seem other-worldly. Even in the sequences of Neil Walsch’s descent into homelessness, I don’t feel any of the grit and bite of living on the street; people are just a little too well-mannered to be truly believable.
His homeless friends are perhaps the only characters in the film of any substance; Fitch ((T Bruce Page) and Chef (Abdul Salaam El Razzar). But even here, the substance is watery. The setting, Ashland Oregon, adds to the ambiance of removal from anything mainstream. Neil certainly wouldn’t have survived in any other metropolitan area, (maybe God prefers the Northwest where there are fewer distractions).
Even more of a contribution to the film’s dream quality is Neil himself, played with true Zen-like devotion by Henry Czerny. He seldom shows emotion, even in the worst of circumstances, and when he does, well gosh– he throws a cup of coffee at a wall.
Was Neil a prophet being prepped by God? His road to Damascus experience was almost anti-climactic; no blinding lights; just a voice that startles him out of a nap. Maybe I’m too used to seeing anything spiritual issuing from thunder and lightening. This film does maintain a composure that is carried to the end with skillful consistency by Czerny. The supporting cast is really extraneous to the story: the claim by Walsch that God speaks to him over a period of time (in Neil’s own voice) answering deep questions with candor and patience. All this, Neil writes down frantically on yellow legal pads which is later transcribed by a faithful devotee (Zoe McLellan) who becomes his assistant when success arrives.
The dictation from God is parceled out in small proverbs that seem just too general and difficult to analyze. Conversations with God is inspirational only in that it gives us a spirit-friendly week-end excursion into the revelations of one man; and an advertisement for reading the book to fill in the gaps.
Through a series of fortuitous (God induced?) events, Walsch is thrust into fame by the publication of his book, becoming a popular Ghandi-like Tony Robbins doing speaking tours; or a Wayne Dwyer who give some credit to God.
Missing from the film are answers to the tough questions: the suffering of the innocent and the very randomness of misery in this world. But what is missing most is what we came to see–God. Neil claims He is inside all of us. But what does that mean? He isn’t outside of us acting in this universe? The very subject of the film never shows up, except in some disembodied voice, sounding all-too human to me. The message seems an eclectic collection from cognitive psychology and proverbs.
But (here’s the disclaimer), the film is an enchanting retreat from our harsh existence, into a more pleasant one imagined by Neil. In this film, the messenger is more captivating than the message.