by Robert Tolz
The following review of Peaceful Warrior first appeared in user comments on the Internet Movie Database after Robert Tolz had been invited to a screening by the Institute for Spiritual Entertainment - New York. The movie opened in limited release on June 2 and will expand to other cities over the coming months. Click here for the film studio's schedule of openings closest to you. The movie is based on the 1988 book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman previously reviewed by Seeds.
I was invited to a screening of Peaceful Warrior in NYC Thursday April 13, having just learned of this film's existence a few days earlier.
I was looking forward to the film, but with some trepidation, considering that prior attempts at communicating spiritually oriented books or ideas had fallen short of my expectations, and had fundamentally failed to convey to the audience a transforming inner experience; witness What the Bleep, Siddhartha, Little Buddha, and others.
Let me say this, simply and directly. They got it right this time, and they did it in a way which could be embraced by crowds at the multiplexes. By impressing the discovery of bona fide spiritual truths on a recognizable sports template, the movie makers will be carrying under-appreciated ideas and experiences to the masses. At least I hope so! I actually woke up early the morning after seeing this, with my mind full of things I might say in an exhaustive review. Never in my life have I felt that way about a movie before.
The reason this movie succeeds is that it follows one of the most basic rules for good story-telling: it shows rather than tells. Although some fundamental spiritual ideas are described with words, it is the plot and character development that prove the truth of those words. You see the transcendence and the realizations in the faces of the characters, and you are not left to wonder why. You understand.
The story, based on a book by Dan Millman, follows a college gymnast who has great potential but whose desire for success is one of the main obstacles standing in the way of that potential. In his mindless pursuit of a goal, he becomes sucked into the deep dark hole of life-is-what-happens-while-you're-making-other-plans. In its simplest message, our hero's real challenge is to find happiness by being present and finding interest and love for what's right in front of him.
The film doesn't try to oversimplify the content of a spiritual path into a single dogma; there are many other seeds of thought strewn along the path by Socrates, each of which could have been the basis for a different struggle to transcend relative unconsciousness.
For many years I have been convinced that non-religious spiritual thought and experience could be something to drive the world in a new direction. This movie provides an example of what life can be like if we ponder these thoughts and implement them in our lives in a concrete and practical way. It's not necessary to be a champion gymnast to derive the fundamental teachings from this film. It is a teaching that anyone can understand. This is why I see that Peaceful Warrior can inspire those who embrace the possibilities which it offers to become peaceful guerrilla warriors, working tirelessly underneath the radar, changing the world.
This is not only a good movie, it's an important one.