Review: Strong Performances Highlight "The Least of These"
The true story of martyred missionary Graham Staines is the first Christian film of the year.
Directed by Aneesh Daniel, The Least of These stars Christian actors Steven Baldwin and Shari Rigby as husband and wife Graham and Gladys Staines, an Australian couple who worked with lepers in northeast India for 35 years.
The third star of the film is Bollywood veteran Sharman Joshi; he plays the fictional Manav Banerjee, a local newspaper reporter trying to make a name for himself. Pushed by his unscrupulous editor, he hopes to prove that Graham is illegally converting locals to Christianity. That ultimately costs the missionary and his two boys their lives at the hands of a mob, which, indeed, was their real-life fate.
The performances are top-notch, as one would expect from such an experienced cast. Shot on location in India, the cinematography truly sets the mood for the place, featuring beautiful backdrops in the countryside and gritty, poverty-stricken ones in the towns and villages.
Christian Film Blog's only real complaint, and it's a big one, is with the story-telling mechanism. Daniel and screenwriter Andrew Matthews chose to present the narrative from the point of view of Joshi's character. A clever enough device on its face - no doubt used with an eye towards the Indian audiences that will see this picture when it debuts there on March 1st - in this case it has the unfortunate downside of making him the focus of the film to the detriment of screen time for the Graham and Gladys Staines characters played by Baldwin and Rigby.
Though Joshi does a strong job, his character is necessarily not as interesting as the man and woman who devoted their lives to serving lepers in India because of their Christian convictions - convictions that ultimately cost the lives of Graham Staines and his young sons.
The Least of These is still certainly worth going to see and Christian Film Blog recommends that you do so. We rate it a seven out of 10, but would have given it a considerably higher score had there been more fleshing out of the Staines characters - their marriage and family relationships and their Christian faith; that would have made for an even more compelling film.