Love Comes Softly (2003)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Love Comes Softly (2003) from Hallmark Entertainment
Rated TV-PG. Drama, Historical, Romance, Family Film

1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on Janette Oke’s best-selling book series, and directed by Michael Landon Jr., Love Comes Softly is inspired storytelling for the whole family. Marty and Aaron Claridge (Katherine Heigl and Oliver Macready) travel west in search of new opportunity. But when tragedy strikes and Marty is suddenly widowed, the young woman must face the rugged terrain, bleak weather, and life among strangers—alone. That is until a handsome widower named Clark Davis (Dale Midkiff) suggests a platonic “marriage of convenience” until Marty can return home. As the months pass, though, Marty and Clark discover an unexpected new love where there was once only loss.

My thoughts: The first and strongest movie of this series. The acting isn’t always the best, but the story holds its own. It’s wholesome and a good reflection of the much-loved novel it’s based on. There’s a relevant faith thread, of course, as Clark is a man of faith, but he doesn’t go spouting scriptures or shouting “hallelujah” all through the movie or anything. 😀 Faith is an unpretentious, natural part of his character, and it’s thus woven naturally into the story.

Now, the seven related movies that follow this one go gradually downhill in some ways, and not because the stories stray further and further away from the original novels (which is kind of a pity but doesn’t bother me so much because they’re movies, not books.) I think the overall quality goes down, in large part due to the virtually never-ending music that plays through the background of most (or all?) of them, sometimes at an excessive volume. An all too obvious attempt to push the emotion, and I have to tune the music out as much as possible to focus on the characters and enjoy the movies for what they are.

Fortunately, that’s not a problem with the first movie. And if you’re like me, you may want to go on and watch the following seven anyway, if you appreciate family-friendly, life-affirming flicks.

My corresponding reading: Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke.

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The Chosen (1981)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Chosen (1981) from Chosen Film Company
Rated PG. (Contains some disturbing Holocaust footage.) Drama, Faith Theme, Historical

Description (from the film case): Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen is the story of two teenage boys who become best friends despite huge differences in their upbringing. Danny (Robby Benson) is the son of an orthodox Hasidic Rabbi (Rod Steiger). Reuven (Barry Miller) comes from a progressive Jewish family whose father (Maximilian Schell) stands at the forefront of the battle for Israeli statehood. Danny’s every moment is devoted to religious study, while Reuven plays jazz piano and is intensely interested in changing the world around him. Their family differences soon force both to make difficult choices.

My thoughts: A film based on one of my all-time favorite books.

Although politics are a passionate part of the story, I don’t like it for the politics. (You know, sometimes I almost hate to use the word, for its connotations. It can be easy to minimize or brush off a complex and crucial human issue by saying it’s “just politics.”)

Anyhow. I like this story for the way it portrays how there are differences within groups, behind the broad labels. “I thought you people only studied Talmud.” You people. One Jewish young man speaking to another.

I like this story for its reflection of fathers and sons. Of friendship. “It is not easy to be a friend.” Especially when your friend is someone you don’t understand.

Reuven has an appropriate level of understatement, Danny has an appropriate level of strangeness. Now, what hit me as the most powerful scene in the book didn’t need as severe a close-up as the film generously gives it. But it still has its own power onscreen, and I can otherwise forgive the moment’s over-generosity for being a product of 1980s filmmaking.

A compelling coming-of-age story indeed.

My corresponding reading: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

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I’m not a super-fan of the trailer, but, hey. Maybe it’s also “1980s forgivable.” 🙂

 

One Night with the King (2006)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

One Night with the King (2006) from Gener8Xion Entertainment
Rated PG. Drama, Royalty, Faith Film, Historical/Period Film, Romance

Description (from the film case): Born into poverty, Hadassah (Tiffany DuPont) grows up to become a beauty who catches the eye of the powerful King Xerxes (Luke Goss) and ultimately becomes his bride. But despite her position, Hadassah’s life is in danger, as the state has decreed that all Jews will be put to death. Defying warnings to remain silent, however, Hadassah struggles to save her people, even as she attempts to hide her heritage…

My thoughts: The music, set design, and many of the costumes are what I like best about this film, which is based on one of my all-time favorite novels. I also appreciate the film’s take on Queen Vashti, not making her just a haughty or conniving beauty with her nose stuck up in the air but a woman with poise and conviction who does appear to have some genuine concern for the king.

Vashti is certainly more queenly than Hadassah/Esther in this movie, as there isn’t much that’s distinctly regal in the lead actress’s carriage or speech, even after her time of preparation to meet the king. It’s also unfortunate that she has to spend so much of the film, particularly the second half of it, in tears.

However, going on about more of the movie’s weaknesses (yes, I see them) would make it sound more horrible than I’ve found it to be on the whole. All things considered, I do enjoy this movie for what it is, and at the time of its release, I think it served as a come-up from previous Christian features.

My corresponding reading: Hadassah: One Night with the King and The Hadassah Covenant by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen.

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Old Fashioned (2014)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Old Fashioned (2014) from Skoche Films
Rated PG-13. Drama, Romance, Faith Film

1/2

Description (from the film case): Former frat boy, Clay Walsh (Rik Swartzwelder), has given up his reckless carousing and now runs an antique shop in a small Midwestern town. There, he has become notorious for his theories on love and romance as well as his devout beliefs. When Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts), a free-spirited young woman with a restless soul, rents the apartment above his shop, she finds herself surprisingly drawn to his strong faith and noble ideas. Together, they attempt the impossible: and old fashioned courtship in contemporary America.

My thoughts: I don’t think this film’s description does it justice, as I’ve found the story to be so much more than two people trying to attempt an old fashioned courtship. The style of their courtship isn’t the point, so much.

Since I read Old Fashioned as a novel before the movie released, I was already aware that the story isn’t about giving folks pointers or rules on chaste dating. That would’ve made for a noble but likely pretty simplistic, flat tale—and if you watch the movie and only see “chaste dating rules” in it, then you’ve missed the movie.

This story is about a guy and girl who must each decide if they’re going to finally get to the nitty-gritty of their individual fears and deal with them head-on, or if they’re going to continue to use their chosen methods of running and hiding. Neither one of them is completely right. Neither one of them is completely wrong. Neither the characters who’re Christians nor the characters who aren’t Christians are either right or wrong about everything. There’s tension and layers to this story.

Sure, I had to get past the obvious fact that the leading man here is rather, um, mature for the young man he plays. Some parts of the movie are too slow, the bar dancing is corny, and though none of the acting is bad, not all of it is my favorite.

But the writing here is excellent. It ties so many thoughts, points, and images together and doesn’t waste them, no matter how small. And although the leading man may not have been my first choice for that role, the fact that he also wrote, produced, and directed the film himself is nothing to sneeze at.

Old Fashioned is one of my all-time favorite novels, and although I didn’t cry, oh, quite as hard at the end of the movie (I literally wept after reading the novel’s last page), the movie didn’t disappoint me and even exceeded my expectations.

My corresponding reading: Old Fashioned by Rene Gutteridge.

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