City of Angels
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

Warner Brothers, Regency Enterprises, and Atlas Entertainment. Produced by Dawn Steel and Charles Roven. Directed by Brad Silberling.

This film is surely one of the strongest affirmations of God's gift of human life that I've seen for a long time, even though it comes packaged in a slick Hollywood production and centered around the romance of two mega stars. It closely matches the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, and especially 11:7-9, in its sage wisdom on the importance of appreciating our human circumstances. And it does it from the point of view of an angel named Seth (Nicholas Cage).

When we are introduced to Seth and his fellow angels, we see a happy group gifted with remarkable powers. They can transport themselves great distances effortlessly, sit on tall structures without fear, and enjoy heavenly music that only they can hear. Their job? To help humans, and this is demonstrated in a number of short sketches involving Seth and another angel, Cassiel (Andre Brauger). One of their jobs is to accompany people into eternity, and they always like to ask what part of human existence each deceased person most enjoyed. And this is the set-up for the film--the angels' fascination over the lives of the humans they are assigned to help. I guess we might call it "human envy."

Maggie, a young heart surgeon (Meg Ryan), soon becomes an object of Seth's study. Successful and sure of herself, when Maggie loses a patient her confidence becomes shattered. Seth finally decides to reveal himself to her, and the two start to develop a romantic interest that surely can go nowhere due to Seth's lack of humanity. Just as this begins, Seth becomes acquainted with one of Maggie's patients, Nathan Messenger (Dennis Franz), who had been in the same situation thirty years earlier. He had been an angel, he fell for a human, and he found a way to become human. As the plot of the movie develops, Seth finally decides to follow Nathan, trading the benefits of angelic eternity with those of transient humanity.

In this plot device the he movie develops its emotional payoff. Seth has lived as an angel, and we see him after a few brief days as a human. As such he has tasted food, felt the wind against his face, and has suffered pain and humiliation. He shares a few moments with Maggie before her life suddenly ends as a result of a tragic accident.

In the concluding dialogue, Seth has a final conversation with Cassiel, who asks a variation of the question always on the mind of the film's angels: Was it worth it? If you had known that Maggie would die so soon, would you have made the same decision? Seth's answer is a resounding "yes."

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