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Seven Days in Utopia: Movie Review

Craig von Buseck, D.Min.


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What Do You Live For?

In life, everyone comes to the point of crisis where they are faced with the question, "What am I living for?" This is the central question of the new faith-based drama, Seven Days in Utopia, starring the legendary, Academy Award winner Robert Duvall and Lucas Black. The cast is rounded out by Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, veteran character actress Kathy Baker, and Deborah Ann Woll.

Seven Days in Utopia follows aspiring golf pro Luke Chisholm (Black) as he explodes in a fury under the pressure of missing numerous shots on the final hole of a televised tournament where he had hoped to earn his pro card. In the midst of Luke's meltdown, his somewhat domineering dad (Joseph Lyle Taylor), who is also his caddy, walks away from his son on live television.

Luke tries to escape the embarrassment of his worst day on the course by driving to no where. He ends up in Utopia, Texas. There he meets a wise old rancher named Johnny Crawford (Duvall), who enters Luke's life on horseback -- the first clue as to the tone of this homespun tale. Johnny takes Luke into town and sets him up in his rustic motel. Later that day, Johnny watches Luke's meltdown on national television and sees a little bit of himself in the hotheaded golfer.

Johnny reveals that he too was once a professional golfer, and like Luke, he had his meltdowns. Johnny invites Luke to stay in Utopia for seven days to try to find the answer to every sportsman's greatest question: "How could a game have such an affect on a man's soul?"

“I need to know why you do the things you do,” Johnny says as the lessons begin the following morning. “Find some conviction.”

Through a series of ingenious and insightful lessons over the seven days, Johnny teaches Luke his own personal philosophy, S.F.T., which he writes on a golf ball in permanent marker -- See; Feel; Trust. But instead of emphasizing this outlook as a way to become a better golfer, Johnny stresses that this is a path to becoming a better person.

This family movie includes a bit of friendly flirting between Luke and Johnny's niece, Sarah. The young girl is studying to be a horse whisperer; a profession Johnny soon discovers is not just in the movies. As she is learning to do with her horses, Sarah uses her Texas charm to help calm the storm raging inside of Luke. In one moving scene, the two are catching fireflies under the starlit Texas sky (you remember the song). Luke asks why the fireflies in the jar aren't glowing anymore. "When the fireflies are trapped their lights go out," Sarah explains. "Freedom is a powerful force."

In a climatic finale to Johnny's sage-like training of Luke, he has him write down all of his dreams and regrets. He instructs the young golfer to hold on to his dreams -- see, feel and trust his vision -- but to bury his regrets. Through his connections, Johnny arranges for Luke to be entered into the Texas pro-am tourney the following week, which provides Luke the chance to test and put into practice all that he has learned.

As this movie tries to explain, perspective is everything. Those on the outside of a life-changing relationship with Christ may well see this as cotton candy, easy answer, quick fix religious propaganda. Critics have already questioned why Oscar winners such as Robert Duvall and Melissa Leo would agree to be in a faith-based film.

"There are good moral and spiritual values that go along with it," Duvall answers, explaining why he chose to star in this film. "Somebody once said, 'Don't be a farmer. Be a man on a farm first.' You are an individual first, then your profession is second."

Lucas Black agrees, speaking of his character: "He's struggling in his golf game and it's because he's struggling in life, really. He's got the wrong outlook and perspective. He's trying to validate his life through a golf score."

Seven Days is beautifully photographed, taking full advantage of the wonderful background of the real Utopia, Texas. And Black, who is an avid golfer, is convincing as a professional athlete.

But the true beauty of the film comes in answering the question that Duvall and Black ponder in their mentor-student relationship -- "What am I living for?" You too may find the answer if you are willing to spend some time in Utopia.

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About The Author

von Buseck

Dr. Craig von Buseck is a published author, popular speaker, and Digital Content Manager for the Parenting section of Craig is also a contributing writer for, MTL Magazine, Charisma Magazine, and The Write Conversation blog. He holds a Doctor of Ministry and an MA in Religious Journalism from Regent University. Craig’s recent book, 'I Am Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Rebirth of Israel' won the prestigious Selah Award for Christian nonfiction and was nominated for The Truman Award by The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. Craig’s other books include 'Victor