By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service     9/20/2018

A  crisis of faith can certainly serve as the basis for a compelling drama. In the case of the Evangelical film “God Bless the Broken Road” (Freestyle), though, the cards feel stacked, albeit for the right outcome, with the result that the protagonist’s doubts themselves seem unconvincing. 

Inspired by the almost-eponymous country music song — the title of which does not mention the deity — director and co-writer Harold Cronk’s movie tells the honorable but rather insipid story of Afghan War widow Amber Hill (Lindsay Pulsipher). Wracked by grief and struggling to pay her bills (the bank is threatening to foreclose on her house) diner waitress Amber no longer attends the church where she once led the choir. 

She does continue to send her young daughter Bree (Makenzie Moss) to Sunday school there, however. And it’s through that connection that both Bree and Amber eventually benefit from the upbeat presence in their lives of racecar driver Cody Jackson (Andrew W. Walker). 

Cody has a problem of his own, namely his inability — or refusal — to slow down on the curves. This has led his coach to place Cody under the temporary tutelage of local garage owner and parish stalwart Joe Carter (Gary Grubbs). 

Soon after Cody’s arrival in town, Joe spontaneously designates him director of the church’s (previously nonexistent) youth outreach program. Plausibly enough, Cody soon has the kids, led by Bree, building go-karts. It’s equally believable when Joe manages to cajole Amber into going out on her first date in the two years since her husband was killed; they’re clearly meant for each other. 

Amber’s return to romance only serves to aggravate another source of worry for her, though, her ongoing conflict with her prosperous mother-in-law, Patti (Kim Delaney). Patti, it seems, is not a fan of the job Amber is doing as a mom. 

While soothing to rural and red-state sensibilities, the picture fails to gain dramatic traction. It also has its awkward moments, at least one of which is all the more cringe-inducing because it’s clearly meant as a sincere tribute to real-life, patriotism-driven military sacrifice. 

Still, only its portrayal of war and of difficulties unlikely to engage youngsters keep “God Bless the Broken Road” from being suitable for all. How much of an impression it will leave on the teen and grown viewers for whom it is appropriate is another question. 

The film contains mature themes and stylized combat violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.