The “Bow Tie” Ending and Christian Film

I don’t make films, but I watch them, and I do try to use media to tell stories.

Have you ever noticed that we Christians have a hang up about loose ends? About story lines that have not been resolved? We cannot just let something remain unresolved. We have to tie it all up in a bow before the end credits. but fils that are not tied to a Christian message don’t always seem to have that rule?

I remember watching a pretty good Christian film. It was almost over, and the main character had not been reconciled to his mother. I actually thought that the film makers might not have time to properly resolve it, and would leave it hanging. But no, tacked onto the end was the tearful hug. It felt like an afterthought, and to be completely honest, I wondered if in the same situation I could forgive so easily. It didn’t ring true. In my opinion, it detracted from an otherwise great story. That sub plot needed more than 60 seconds to be resolved.

It’s obvious that the main story line has to be resolved. That’s the point of telling the story in the first place. But why does every nuance of the plot have to explained? Can we not leave people wondering?

Maybe we think that if we don’t resolve the story we are signaling that the issue at hand is not important? Or that we don’t think it’s an issue that should be resolved? It’s easier in a series or sequence of films, I guess. People know there is something coming later. It actually becomes imperative to leave significant plots open to be resolved later. But why do we have to tie up all the loose ends in a story?

I think part of it is that we put those sub plots in for a reason. We want to tell that story. Sure, it’s not the main story, but we wanted to show that issue; that conflict, and we want very much to resolve it. But often we rush to resolve the issue, and it feels wrong. Unnatural. Fake. Not like real life. In real life there is rarely a time when all of life’s sub plots are tied up at one time. Life is messy. It’s complicated.

No, that’s not real life, but neither is a movie. If we are just telling a story, then it doesn’t matter if it’s all clean at the end. But when the conflict is teaching a biblical principle, then the principle must be taught. Maybe that’s our problem. Maybe not every issue in film should have an ultimate purpose in teaching a biblical principle. Maybe it’s just a part of the story.

I would like to see us feel the freedom to move away from “bow tie” endings. If we want Christian film to have broader appeal (read- seen by more people…) then we need to make really good films, with really good stories. Sometimes that means we will just have story elements that are not part of some additional message. That conflict with the main character’s mother is not something to be resolved, it simple gives information about the main character.

Or at the very least, if an issue that must be resolved is introduced, make time to do it in a way that feels natural.