What to do when you feel that you do not have anything to live for anymore? And when you feel that the world has let you down? How in earth should you continue your life, when the world has hit you with an awful tragedy that sucks faith and hope out of you?
Australian filmmaker John Hopper (Victorious, Gone, Sovereign) takes a look in such situation by telling a Christian story about restoration of faith in times of distress. The story of his short film “Paid in Full” is also about finding the power to continue further and restore your will to live, which expands the film’s thoroughly Christian motifs to a more universal level in which the importance of reaching out to the ones who urgently and evidently need support and help is valued. And this universally human message in our globally uncertain and conflict filled times seems urgent as well as appreciated.
John Hopper as the director and writer of “Paid in Full” materializes and dramatizes these themes by focusing on two main characters, Joseph (Cantona Stewart) and Evan (Shaun Ridley), who are both handsome young men in their prime. Joseph has lost his beloved girlfriend in a natural disaster and feels utterly lost because of it. While walking around the park he gets confronted by a violent gang of criminals. Evan, who has complex background as well, happens to stroll around the park too with a bible in his hand. As a brave God’s messenger he helps Joseph out of the dramatic situation, which leads to the core dialogue of the film between Joseph and Evan and explores the topics of the “Paid in Full” in depth.
Hopper’s way of storytelling utilizes splendidly the audiovisual dramatic elements that film as genre offers by visualizing motifs, creating a compelling emotional atmosphere, and mixing the storyline by playing with time. Although the film drags a little with its long preachy dialogue part in the middle, the storytelling is well paced and forms a coherent tone. Here a special praise goes both to the bold and vigorous score by Petteri Sainio and emotionally lead editing by Michael D. Head and John Hopper. Caleb Trevatt’s attentive cinematography shines in the more dramatic scenes, while being solid in others.
However, all this wouldn’t work without the emotional and grounded performances by the two lead actors. Deeply affecting and nuanced performances by the young and upcoming Cantona Stewart and Shaun Ridley carry the weight of the traumas of the characters as well as the psychologically and religiously complex subject matters. They are the gems of this little movie.
As a Christian drama with a clear moral compass and backbone, “Paid in Full” succeeds. But as a drama in a wider sense, the film often slips into sentimentality, whereas its secondary characters are too stereotypical and the story is too naive and forcefully dramatic. However, these aspects might be rather irrelevant for a Christian viewer, who can appreciate the motifs and the religious traditions from where the narrative stems. And for them, the film might give quite clear answers to the abovementioned questions.