‘Just Let Go’ film portrays drunken driving, death, forgiveness

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Chris Williams’ story of forgiveness continues to touch hearts and lives.

Henry Ian Cusick stars as Chris Williams in "Just Let Go." The film follows the tough road of forgiveness.
Henry Ian Cusick stars as Chris Williams in “Just Let Go.” The film shares Williams’ amazing story of forgiveness. (“Just Let Go”)

A 2010 Mormon Message told the story of Williams, a Utah husband and father, who lost half of his family to a drunk driving accident. Now a film based on Williams’ experience is being shown in theaters across the nation.

“Just Let Go” premiered in select theaters in Utah on Oct. 9 and further explains Williams’ story.

In February 2007, Williams, his pregnant wife and three children were driving home when they were hit by a car driven by a 17-year-old intoxicated boy. The crash caused the death of Williams’ wife, unborn baby and two of his four children.

The directors of the film also directed Williams’ Mormon Message, “Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light.”

One of the directors, Christopher S. Clark, heard about the tragic story from his grandmother, who lived in the same ward in Salt Lake City as the Williams family. At the time, he and co-director Patrick Parker were working on a documentary exploring how people respond to tragedies.

Clark and Parker contacted Williams three months after the accident and interviewed him for the documentary, but the documentary never came to fruition. Later on when Williams wanted to know what happened with it, the idea for the Mormon Message came about.

A scene from the movie “Just Let Go,” which tells the story of Chris Williams and a car accident that killed his wife and two children. (“Just Let Go”)

Williams went looking for Parker and Clark after the success of the Mormon Message and after Williams’ book “Let it Go: A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness” was published in 2012.

“Chris took Patrick and I to lunch and said, ‘I want to do a follow-up piece to the Mormon Message,'” Clark said.

Parker and Clark believed the story had enough cinematic elements and enough of a built-in audience within the LDS community, so they hired a script writer, Vance Mellon, and collaborated with him. They also asked their friend Dan LaPray to be the producer.

“The directors and I go way back,” LaPray said. “We were all in a business together 18 years ago to make films. Its finally playing out in a way we least expected it to.” As producer, LaPray handled the business aspects of filming, which allowed the directors to focus on creatively portraying the main message of the film.

The directors had access to Williams’ personal journal and, as LaPray put it, “the nitty gritty details about what forgiveness really is.” They tried to incorporate it into the film in a way that would impact viewers.

“The goal for us is to tell a story about forgiveness to help people take a deeper look into their lives,” LaPray said.

They filmed in Salt Lake City for 21 days, and were able to film the accident at the actual scene of the crash. Henry Ian Cusick, who has also appeared in popular TV series such as ‘Lost’ and ‘The 100,’ stars as Chris Williams’ character.

After screenings, Clark said people from all walks of life will come up to tell him all the things they’re needing to let go of. The directors and LaPray encourage everyone to see the film because of its impactful message. University Mall and Provo Towne Center are currently showing “Just Let Go” until tickets stop selling.

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