The Ledge (2011)
Written and Directed by Matthew Chapman
Reviewed by Bill Creasy
Matthew Chapman is known in atheist circles as the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, and he is also a noted film writer and director. He wrote a book on the Dover, Pa., Intelligent Design trial, 40 Days and 40 Nights. He was a speaker at the 2007 AAI Conference in Crystal City.
His movie The Ledge received some publicity as an "atheist" movie, as the plot centers around a conflict between an atheist and a fundamentalist. But it is a serious, unusual independent movie with multi-faceted characters. It is not preachy, and the atheism is only one of several major plot points. Chapman described the movie as a thriller, and there is also a touching love story.
The movie begins with Gavin (played by Charlie Hunnam) on the ledge of a tall building, getting ready to jump. A police officer Hollis (Terrence Howard) tries to talk him into coming off the ledge. Gavin says that if he doesn't jump, someone else will die. Gavin tells him the story of why he is there.
Gavin met a married couple, Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shauna Harris (Liv Tyler), living in an apartment across the hall. Later, the woman applied for a job at the hotel that Gavin managed, without knowing he worked there. Gavin's roommate, a gay man, said there must be meaning to this event, but Gavin, an atheist, scoffed that it was only a coincidence that she came to his hotel. But the relationship with the couple went quickly downhill when the four of them had dinner together and Joe, a Christian fundamentalist, prayed for God to forgive the abomination of homosexuality. Gavin (who was straight) was outraged, but he privately became sexually attracted to Shauna and decided to liberate her from Joe.
Gavin got to know Shauna. It turned out that all the characters were dealing with difficult personal problems. Joe, in particular, became born again to recover from addiction, but he had anger that was not far below the surface.
One could agree with the late Christopher Hitchens's way of thinking, that Joe was more dangerous because of his religious certainty of forgiveness and life after death. He admitted that he was an "Old Testament kind of guy." However, jealousy has been the cause of many murders, with or without religion. I'll let the audience make that decision.
The plot point that is not surprising to atheists, but which may be surprising to the religious, is the idea that Gavin could care enough about someone to consider sacrificing himself. In that sense, it is good publicity for atheists.
The film is rated R and it is available on DVD from Netflix.
This review was previous published in the January issue of WASHline.