Finding Meaning with Father Stu

Disclaimer: The Fandads were provided with an advance copy of Father Stu for review. All thoughts, opinions, and esoteric questions about life are our own.

Father Stu is reminiscent of stories that we have all seen before: The lost soul that is trying to find their place in life and due to some traumatic event, they find their way. What differentiates Father Stu from other movies is that the true story of Stuart Long is pretty hard to believe but is relatable in a way.

Stuart Long’s life is not an easy one. He grows up being reminded that his brother has died. His parents, played by Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver, are not as supportive or there for him as most parents should be to their children. The relationship between himself and his father can best be described as toxic. Due to these relationships, Stuart does not have a set focus for his life. It seems like everything that he is doing is to gain the attention of his parents.

We first meet Stuart as a kid dancing in his underwear singing a song while his father watches and is drinking a beer. While it is a bizarre image to start to it seems like even at a young age Stuart was trying to gain some sort of acceptance from his father, maybe doing these routines was a way for him to get his father’s attention. We flashforward to Stuart in the boxing ring and then in the hospital with his mother. During this doctor visit, we learn that due to the wear and tear of boxing his body has grown an infection and he needs to stop boxing. Refusing to accept this fact he blames his mother for telling the doctor to tell him this news. As with the strange intro with his father we see in this scene that the relationship between him and his mother is also toxic. He fights to support her since her “deadbeat” husband does not.

Stuart decides he wants to go into acting and moves to California for his big break. He gets a job at a grocery store and this is where he meets, Carmen. He throws plenty of cringy pick-up lines at her to try to get her attention. He finds out that she will be at the local church for a community luncheon and basically stalks her there. She blocks all his attempts and informs him that she can not date any man that is not Catholic. Showing that he does not give up easily Stuart starts going to church and getting baptized to be closer to Carmen.

We next get a series of scenes that show Stuart getting to know Carmen more, making friends at church, and going to religious classes. While this gives us a little more insight into Stuart’s life it also shows us how he struggles to understand the “deprogramming” of his life and how he wants to change for Carmen. After being pulled over for driving intoxicated we witness an intense moment between Stuart and his father.

Now we all know what Mel Gibson has done and said in his past and his role is not a redemption role for him. This feels like an extension of his infamous run-in with the police. He hurls insults at his son and at one point calls the 800 number on the back of a truck to complain about the driver using language similar to his DUI arrest.

In our lives, it seems like we are all waiting for that sign to tell us why we are here for. when drinking a little too much at a bar a stranger starts talking to Stuart about what he is doing with his life. The stranger tells Stu “You are getting into the fine print on this way of living” and this starts a conversation about Stu not being owned anything and he’s getting a chance to live a better life. The stranger’s last words to Stu are to not drive. If this isn’t a neon sign that something bad is about to happen I do not know what is.

Stuart gets on his motorcycle and avoids a car only to run into another car and get thrown across the road. In this moment Stuart sees a vision and decides his purpose in life is to be a priest. He starts a new fight in this stage of his life in trying to be accepted into the priesthood. Due to his past and his colorful language, he is not seen as the priest-type but just like he was chasing after Carmen he does not give up so easily on this goal of his.

Not only is Carmen against him going into the priesthood his parents blame Carmen for putting this idea into his head. Carmen sees herself marrying Stuart but knows that will not happen if he becomes a priest. His parents who have lost their religion with the death of their son do not agree with Stuart at all. Once accepted Stuart gives 110% to his studies. When giving his first Homily Stuart’s unique view on life attracts the parishioners and shows his fellow priest that Stuart may be meant for this livelihood.

From a boxer to an actor to going to school to become a priest it seems like the story of Stuart Long is complete. Sadly one more obstacle is thrown at Stuart. He is diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis which his doctor says has symptoms that are similar to ALS. I kind of wished we were given more of his last act but it feels a little rushed. We spend a lot of time getting to know who Stuart Long was but when he is fighting this disease we get a short version of what he went through. While the extra features do help fill in some of the gaps I would have liked to see more added to the story.

Final Thoughts: Father Stu is a movie about finding meaning in your life. He is relatable in the way that most people jump from career to career to find that perfect role for them. While many will not go the same path that Stu does he does show us that everyone finds their way at one point or another. The acting in some scenes is tepid at best but the movie still manages to keep your attention to see what happens next to Stuart.

Kid-Friendly: The movie is rated R for language. Stuart uses a lot of colorful language throughout the movie. Even when he is giving confession he drops a few F-bombs. The story is a good story for children to see but it is ultimately on you if you want them to hear all of this cursing.

Violence: We see some of Stuart’s boxing matches at the beginning of the movie. The fights show the normal cuts and bruises that you would normally see in a boxing match. Halfway through the movie, we see the accident that Stuart is involved in while riding a motorcycle and that might be a little too graphic for younger viewers.

Based on a true story, FATHER STU is an unflinchingly honest, funny, and uplifting story about finding purpose in a most unexpected place. After surviving a terrible motorcycle accident, Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) wonders if he can use his second chance to help others find their way –and leads this former amateur boxer to the surprising realization that he is meant to be a priest. Despite a devasting health crisis and the skepticism of church officials and his estranged parents (Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver), Stu pursues his vocation with courage and compassion, inspiring not only those closest to him but countless others along the way.


  • You Don’t Know Stu: More About Father Stuart Long
  • Over 10 Minutes of Deleted Scenes

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