Letters to God

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Article Reviews
Letters to God (Mercy Creek Entertainment, 2010)

Ever wonder what happens to the letters children mail to Santa? Imagine the dilemma the mailman faces when a confident boy of 8 hands him letters addressed to God.

This is the situation that the divorced, lonely, and alcoholic Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnston) finds himself in, when he takes over the route of a fellow letter carrier on leave. More troublesome still, his supervisor Les (Dennis Neal) suggests he keep them. When Brady ends up meeting the boy's pastor in an attempt to get rid of them, the pastor suggests that Brady has been given a mission by God, and that the letters addressed from his parishioner, 8-year-old Tyler (Tanner McGuire) with brain cancer were meant for him.

What could the chatty letters full of details of Tyler Doherty's life and childish questions have to do with a life where, as he describes it, "everything I touch turns to dust"?

Maddy Doherty (Robyn Lively), is at the end of her rope. Her husband's sudden death last year, left her a single working mom of two growing boys-cancer-ridden Tyler, and Ben (Michael Bolten), a teenager who pushed everyone, including God, away after losing his father.

Letters to God is not a typical sick child story. Missing the self absorption, and the scientists rushing to find a cure, we are left with an 8-year-old boy whose contagious hope buoys up everyone he meets. Tyler sits out on a porch on the roof of the house at night talking to God in his letters. "I miss Mom's laugh." "Can you see the stars from there, God? My father told me you made them." Tyler isn't afraid of going to heaven, he tells God, "I already know two people there." And he isn't afraid of sharing the reason for his hope: Tyler is best friends with God.

Letters to God is based on a true story written by Patrick Doughtie, the father of a little boy who died of cancer. His letters had a powerful effect on those who read them, inspiring them to write their own letters to God. Anyone who has had a loved one die the slowly painful death from cancer knows the importance of a relationship with God in a crisis. Yet Tyler's faith isn't the foxhole faith of a dying boy, it's the easy friendship of a life long walk in the company of Jesus, molded in his image. 

Tyler doesn't beg to live longer, he asks for faith for those he loves, and someone to care for his lonely mother. Tyler is an inspiration to his classmates, his brother Ben, and his mother who finds strength in his example. Soon, the influence of one little boy's faith inspires a movement of outreach and faith. "Letters to God" is a moving tribute to a life well lived and a mission unaccomplished.

A compelling performance by Tanner McGuire as Tyler is the hub of this emotional drama, compliments the theatrical  magic of Ralph Waite. Mr Waite lost a child to cancer 30 years ago and for this reason felt inspired to be part of this moving tribute. Jeffrey Johnston is believable as Brady McDaniels, renegade turned father, and the film, though slow in places, finishes with a powerful impact, as real-life testimonies to the real Tyler are shown during the credits.

This moving film will become a standard in many a family DVD collection.