Walk the Line Review
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters (Joaquin Phoenix)
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections
—10. Presentation Downloads
Perhaps better than any other icon, Johnny Cash most closely carried the message of Christ to the world during his lifetime. Walk The Line, though not overtly Christian, certainly holds true to the spirit of love and acceptance that Christ lived. Johnny Cash exemplifies the message of hope to sinners, regardless of how twisted or destructive their lives have become. It is this same message that Christ carried to the people he encountered. Christ said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt.9:12-13). Christ chose to dine with prostitutes and tax collectors and called the religious zealots of his day whitewashed tombs. This is what Johnny Cash did.
In the opening scenes, Johnny (or John as he is often called) brings up how “good” his brother Jack is, as if Jack’s nature is somehow inherently different than his own. John insinuates that he is the lesser person and could not possibly ever be as good as his brother. The fantastic dialogue between these brothers is riveting; the
one admitting a guilt he has not yet lived out, and the other encouraging him to do the best with what he has – music. Much later in the film, John completes his detox from the pills and reflects on how many bad things he’s done. Again, he compares himself to his brother. June encourages him that God is giving him a second chance. It this moment, John realizes the message of forgiveness is even more powerful than a life perfectly lived. Despite his struggle with feeling like a bad person, it is this very element of sin that gives credence to the redeeming work of Christ. It is the redemption from imperfection that exposes the depth and power of God’s love for us.
When John goes to his first audition, he chooses a black shirt. He claims, “It’s the only color we all have (meaning the band).” Then after his transformation, he digs through his closet to find the perfect shirt to wear to the Folsom prison concert. He chooses the black one. If the black shirt stands for sin, then isn’t it a candid
statement that black is, in fact, the only color we all have? In both scenes, someone comments, “You look like you’re going to a funeral.” He replies, “Maybe I am.” The first time he says it, he fears the death of his future. The second time he says it, he appreciates the death of his past. Burying the life of desperation he had lived up to that point, he resolves to carry a message of hope to those who need to hear it. So, what song does he sing? Does he bring back an old gospel tune from his youth, or does he sing a song about sin? Guess you’ll have to see the movie…
Telling the right story
John’s brother Jack explains why he studies the Bible so diligently. He asks rhetorically, “How can I help people if I can’t tell the right stories?” Later, just before John goes into the concert at Folsom prison, he stands with one finger on a saw blade, reflecting on his brother’s untimely death. It is with great strength and admiration for his brother’s intentions that he steps into the makeshift stage area to tell the right story. Throughout the film, director James Mangold does a fantastic job of showing how Cash’s songs are born out of the events of his life. Without even realizing it, Johnny Cash brings his brother’s dreams and aspirations to fruition by making the best of what he has. He uses music to tell not only the story of his life, but the story of the human condition. That’s why people loved his music.
If I had to pick a Christ figure for this film, perhaps the closest I could come would be June Carter. Though she had her share of hard times and made her own mistakes, both she and her family committed themselves to helping those who could not help themselves. In this story, she loves John through the very worst stage of his
life. It is her unconditional love for him that transforms his life and reveals the love of God to him. She gives him the message, the words of life, that God desires each of us to hear: “God has given you a second chance.”
Sharing faith (spoiler warning)
There is a particularly beautiful scene in this film where John addresses the warden just before going onstage to sing to the prisoners. The warden asks him not to remind the prisoners of their condition, but rather give them some uplifting gospel music. He laughs and asks the warden if he thinks they’ve forgotten. Cash then asks if the warden has ever drunk the water from the prison. The warden replies that he has not, but that he’s a Coca-Cola man. John lifts a glass of dirty water and steps onto the stage. As if to say that he has drunk the water of iniquity, he takes a drink in front of the prisoners. He tells them that he hasn’t done hard time like they have, but that he has had his share of hard times. In a way, that glass of water represents a common bond that we all have – sin. Those who refuse to admit they have drunk from the glass remain completely unaware of their human condition. They merely entertain notions of “uplifting gospel music” in a world where Coca-Cola
While there are many more fabulous scenes and dialogues that could be discussed in a spiritual context, I’ll save a few for you to discover on your own. Be sure to view this film through spiritual eyes. Rather than simply being entertained by the romantic story of John and June, look for the messages that unfold throughout the story - messages of freedom from personal prisons, of the healing power of unconditional love, and of the incredible impact that Christ’s forgiveness makes on the weary soul.