I walked away from The Ragamuffin film which depicts the life of Rich Mullins sad and thankful. Sad because I ask again, “Why God? Why then? I needed him.” And thankful to the man who made such sacrifice to sing of God’s furious love to a generation of suburban brats like me who were raised on the need to perform.
If the goal of the movie were, like a medley, to make you long for the real thing, then the film was a success. But with a medley you have the ability to turn that longing into i-tunes downloads. My desire to see Rich Mullins again—to hear him laugh and sing—is not so easily assuaged.
Watching the film is like seeing someone that reminds you of a friend. Maybe a cousin or a brother—you search for signs of your friend. You see an expression, a gesture, or hear a voice inflection, but he is not there. I realize that my expectations for this tribute film were not only unrealistic, but impossible. I was looking for a resurrection. I miss the man who wrote the soundtrack to my adolescence, and though I logically knew from the outset I would be disappointed, I was hoping to see him again.
Well-acted for the most part and wonderfully researched, Ragamuffin gives insight into Rich’s life. The depiction of Brennan Manning and his influence on Rich connected many dots for me. The actor who played Rich did a marvelous job on many levels, but I thought the roughness of Rich’s character was overemphasized. I remember Rich as grown out, but combed; tattered, but clean. He was rough around the edges, but not jagged. I don’t remember his hair detracting from his eye contact. When I met Rich backstage once, he looked at me as if I were the only one in the room—even though he never met me before.
But the thing I most miss is Rich’s laugh—and his ability to feel love and beauty and joy as deeply as he felt pain. The film team was able to capture Rich’s ability to feel deeply, but only on the cloudy side—like Johnny Cash. I miss the fun I saw Rich have on stage and the teamwork he fostered among the band members. I understand that humor is difficult to harness, and done badly is terribly embarrassing, but Rich was funny, and I miss that.
My thanks to the team for their hard work and diligence on this project. Please don’t take my disappointment as a reflection on your job well done, but simply a sign that I miss the real man, as I am sure you do too. Your film helped me remember him, but I should not expect to see this generous mind until I pass through the portal to the immortal. I will be excited to thank him for going before me in life and sharing the lessons God taught him through joy and pain.