“We are all homeless – just workin’ our way home.” These words are aptly spoken by Denver Moore, who enters the film The Same Kind of Different as Me as a very disturbed homeless man, played poignantly by Djimon Hounsou in the true story of Ron and Deborah Hall’s (Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger) journey to personal healing and struggle with physical illness and their effect on the homeless they encounter. The award-deserving performance by Hounsou carries the film; I sat transfixed by almost every word that emanates from this man. His deliberate and powerful voice anchors much of this narrative in the truth it wishes to convey—that of the homeless experience and this black man in particular, who struggled as a sharecropper, living much like a slave, well into the 1950s. His escape from this lifestyle meant a homeless existence, especially after a brush with the law, until he encountered the Halls.
Deborah Hall’s love and charity toward Denver and all the homeless people who come to the Fort Worth Union Gospel Mission is transforming. Moore said; “I never met Miss Debbie—she met me.” Zellweger, indeed, manages to convey a gentle and tender strength, even in the midst of her character’s battle with cancer, by unrelentingly pursuing the most lost and broken in society, as she is urged on by a prophetic dream and an unwavering faith. She cleverly insists that her husband make amends for wrongdoings by serving with her at the mission. He reluctantly agrees, and his transformation ensues, where he is just as changed by those he encounters as they are blessed by his service. The intimate bond he builds with Denver carries them both past the borders of this film into the world at large to raise millions of dollars for the homeless together by telling their story of redemption and grace.
Though a gap exists in the transition from the baseball bat-wielding Moore to the angelic, preaching Moore, God is greatly glorified throughout, as Denver increasingly speaks profundities about lessons learned and grander purposes, even in the midst of suffering, and Debbie quietly blesses everyone in her life, humbly pointing to God’s grace and love as the liberating and healing force. At times the tears in the theater were enough to fill buckets when emotional moments, such as the touching father/son encounter between Earl (played bitingly by Jon Voigt as an ornery alcoholic) and Ron was perfectly modulated.
Though there are a few violent scenes where Denver wields a baseball bat and smashes car windows, and emotional moments associated with infidelity, cancer struggles, and alcohol abuse, this film is overflowing with the message of redemption and hope, as we witness lives transformed and a powerful path created that lead to the One who changes hearts and minds.