Seven Days in Utopia, which recently opened in limited release, is well worth the drive to the cineplex near you that’s showing it. On the surface, it’s a film about golf. But underneath, it’s about a lot more: It’s about how to live a good life and do the right thing.
The film stars Lucas Black as a talented young golfer named Luke, who’s just had the worst competition of his life, or possibly of anyone’s life. He’s choked during a crucial game, resulting in a terrible score. After a public meltdown, a disgusted reaction from his father, and a car crash, Luke finds himself in the tiny town of Utopia, Texas — a name that, at first, sounds too good to be true.
The rancher who finds Luke and his wrecked car just happens to be a former golf pro. This rancher, Johnny Crawford (played by Robert Duvall), runs a small, out-of-the-way golf course and gives lessons. He invites Luke to stay a few days, promising to help him find his game again.
A series of unconventional and often funny lessons follows, and they’re not just on the golf course. Johnny takes Luke fishing, painting, and flying, all in the name of improving his golf game. What he’s really teaching, however, is something much bigger than just putting and chipping. He’s teaching things like focus, goal-setting, and self-control. And at the same time, he’s providing the fatherly encouragement that Luke, raised by a perfectionistic and controlling dad, has been lacking in his life for far too long.
We eventually learn that Johnny’s wisdom comes from his faith, a faith that saved him from a life of alcoholism and brokenness. He gently communicates that faith to Luke, whose own life is transformed by it. The movie has a very unconventional ending that emphasizes the fact that this was never just about golf. It demonstrates that whether Luke wins or loses his next tournament, he’s already won the things that matter.
Seven Days in Utopia is based on a novel that was originally titled Golf’s Sacred Journey, which has been studied by men’s groups around the country. (You can buy a copy of that book at our own site, www.colsoncenterstore.org.) It’s heartening to know that so many men are being inspired by this story, because it has so much to teach about how to pass along the great truths of our faith.
You’ve heard me speak before on this program about the difficulties of sharing our religious and moral beliefs with the younger generation; I just recently reported on a very discouraging study that shows that young adults have no moral training and no framework in which to deal with moral issues.
Seven Days in Utopia reminds us that these things can’t be taught in a vacuum. We teach them most effectively through real relationships; through living them. By loving, encouraging, and investing in kids and young adults, we practice what we’re preaching — and that’s how they start to get it. That’s what shows them that we’re not just talking a good game, but really living out what we believe — when our faith inspires us to genuinely care about them. Johnny’s relationship with Luke is a breath of fresh air, not just to the young man himself, but to viewers who don’t get enough of this kind of thing in the media or in real life.
So go and see Seven Days in Utopia and take some friends. But my recommendation is that rather than just see it, you learn to live it.