MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
I have mentioned in other reviews of films by The Erwin Brothers that they seem to have the craft of filmmaking down pat. Their films have higher production values and better acting than many faith-based films and I Still Believe is no exception. This film’s goal is to tell the fact-based story about singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp (Apa) and his great love for Melissa Henning (Robertson), who he met while attending a Christian college. Soon after they began their relationship Melissa was diagnosed with advanced cancer. In spite of these challenges, their love could not be denied and they decided to get married (Camp was only 20), determined to stay together throughout whatever trials lay in store.
Jeremy Camp’s fan base no doubt saw this movie in theaters when it opened in mid-March; now it is currently available to rent online. I know that this movie already has its defenders as a moving tearjerker, but sometimes there is a wide gap between the film that you think you are seeing and the film that you are actually watching.
Before you spend twenty dollars, you should be made aware of the film’s many deficiencies (and these are primarily the fault of the screenplay):
The supporting players in this film are all underwritten. While Jeremy’s dad (Gary Sinise) is a pastor, this doesn’t even enter the conversation until the final chapter. Jeremy has a younger brother (Reuben Dodd) with disabilities, but this seems to be used primarily for an analogy about love toward the end of the movie. Melissa’s sister (Hali Everett) comes in and out of the movie in short bursts; we don’t get to know her either.
The Camp family lives in Indiana and Jeremy heads west to go to school in California. Throughout the course of the film there is great mobility to and from these two locations. In an early scene Jeremy gives his kid brother his cell phone; simple phone calls are no longer used to get medical information in most of the rest of the movie when you can travel between Indiana and California so quickly.
If you are hoping to hear longer versions of Jeremy Camp’s songs (apart from short snippets of choruses), look elsewhere. And, if you want to hear the name of Jesus Christ, you’re out of luck, too. This film implies Christian faith but it doesn’t inform the audience about the gospel. Even the wedding scene is a secular one, using the (Elvis Presley) song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as the entrance music and separate vows from the husband and wife.
The movie wants to engage us in deep theological questions about faith and healing, but fails to stick the landing, with a sentimental explanation for a deep tragedy that just doesn’t bear serious scrutiny.
I Still Believe could still lead to deeper discussions about faith and love. Without question, its heart is in the right place and you may still get something good from your viewing. But be prepared to grapple as well with what this film fails to deliver: a mature Christ-centered theology of redemptive suffering.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: An underwritten screenplay hampers a well-acted and potentially worthwhile Christian film.
One pitchfork: Scenes of suffering from serious illness.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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