While leaving the theater after viewing Richard Dutcher’s States of Grace, I could not help reflecting more on the film’s audience than on the film itself. The film is the most challenging expression to date of the Mormon film movement, and I wonder if many who went to the theater to see States of Grace were expecting something of a continuation of the spirit and fun in its predecessor, God’s Army. Indeed, three characters from the first film have minor roles. Furthering the idea that this was a sequel, the film was first released in Utah as God’s Army 2: States of Grace.
Because this film raises more questions than it answers, viewers will react in many ways to it. I saw a husband and wife, who I imagine were expecting a continuation of the more benign God’s Army, leave the theater during an intense scene and did not return to see the last twenty minutes of the film. I was rather sorry that they did not return, for Dutcher provides a spiritual context for the harrowing incidents. In contrast to this couple, a middle-aged man whom I had never seen before approached me and my wife after the credits finished rolling. “Wasn’t that great?” he exclaimed, “What a fantastic film!”