Calling someone a ‘doubting Thomas’ means that they don’t believe what they are told without concrete, usually tangible, proof. The wording for that specific kind of skeptic stems from a Bible story about the apostle Thomas. He didn’t believe the other apostles, who all claimed that the newly resurrected Jesus appeared before them. Once Jesus shows himself to Thomas, he is told that others have heard, not seen, and still believed.
Whether or not one believes the Bible is true, the idea of a ‘doubting Thomas’ took hold into common parlance. In part, this is due to several artists’ renderings of the event- paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and even a handful of diptychs. Now it refers to a skeptic in the face of mounting evidence.
Doubting Thomas is about Thomas (Will McFadden), Tom for short, and Jen (Sarah Butler) a happily married couple. They are expecting their first child, due very soon. As the expectant date gets closer, Tom gets a big case to work at his law firm. Ron (Jamie Hector), Tom’s best friend, is also working the case. Jen and Ron are also quite close, and he frequents their place for dinner.
“…Tom is Caucasian, as is his wife… he is startled to discover their new baby boy is black…”
One day, the couple catch someone breaking into Jen’s car, stealing her purse. Tom gives chase, and while the culprit gets away, the bag is recovered. While Tom is retrieving the burgled object, Jen goes into labor. Jen leaves a note explaining that Ron gave her a ride. Once he arrives, Tom checks in on Jen. She is fine, and then a nurse introduces Liam (Jace Xavier, Cosmo Jordan, Demi Patton), the baby boy, to the proud new papa.
Tom is startled to discover that Liam is black. Tom is Caucasian, as is his wife. Ron though, is African-American, which sows seeds of doubt in Tom’s mind about who is the actual father. Jen offers to take a paternity test to put Tom at ease. He decides that is unnecessary and accepts this random act of fate. Or does he? Rumors swirl around the office about his baby, at outings the married duo have to constantly explain that Liam isn’t adopted and Tom is the father, and throughout all this, Ron and Jen seem to be getting closer. Tom’s life is on the brink of collapse when secrets are revealed that change how Tom and Jen see their family and lives.
Will McFadden not only stars as Tom but he also wrote the screenplay. It is his first full-length script and is remarkable in every way. On a break from work, Tom and Ron are playing basketball. Tom questions how an African-American person can grow up in the United States and not touch a basketball until recently. It is small touches like this, where one doesn’t even realize they are bigoted that most effectively drive home the point. The tension and drama stem from Tom discovering that maybe he isn’t as progressive as he once believed he was. The deeply rooted biases one might not even realize they possess until push comes to shove play out naturally, truthfully, as the story progresses.
“…one of the best written moments of any movie all year…”
Jen’s reaction to the secrets withheld from her is equally as truthful. A moment with her dad, when he describes a time, shortly before she was born, that he might not have stayed with her mom is heartrending. It is Ron’s takedown of Tom’s ill-advised allegations of an affair that the most emotionally devastating. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s a speech in which Ron describes people’s reactions to his existence that is one of the best written moments of any movie all year.
Director Will McFadden allows the extraordinary cast room to find their characters and delve deep to ensure authentic emotions. McFadden is remarkable as Tom, who seems like a nice enough guy at first. The anger he lashes out with as his life spins out of control is terrifying. Sarah Butler, so amazing in Free Fall a few years ago, gives the performance of her career here. She is startling as the loving mother put into an unwinnable situation thanks to her husband’s paranoia. Tom and Jen unexpectedly see each other, after she kicked him out of the house. Her exasperation and annoyance at seeing him are well conveyed.
As Ron, Jamie Hector is brilliant. He and Jen are at a food truck, with Liam, getting lunch when a customer comments on what a cute family they all make. Instead of arguing, he just goes with it. The way Hector plays it is pitch perfect and one of the only moments of levity in the entire movie. The rest of the cast is equally as good.
Doubting Thomas is a great drama. The acting is stellar, the writing is honest, and what it says about race, perception, and your true self is sincere.
Doubting Thomas (2018) Directed by Will McFadden. Written by Will McFadden. Starring Will McFadden, Sarah Butler, Jamie Hector, James Morrison, Melora Walters, Jace Xavier, Cosmo Jordan, Demi Patton. Doubting Thomas made its world premiere at the 2018 Dances With Films.
10 out of 10