So movie reviews are not my thing. Actually, going to the movies isn’t really my thing. I would much rather brew a great cup of coffee, snuggle under a blanket on my couch, and hope I stay awake for the duration of a film rather than sit in a movie theater. The blanket is usually my downfall. However, when I found out my all time favorite book Redeeming Love by author Francine Rivers was being made into a major motion picture I could not wait to go see it. That wait came to an end last night. Now as I have said I’ve read the book, multiple times. I knew the subjects in the story were heavy and dark but that’s makes the beauty of redemption so much greater!
If you are going to go see this movie no matter what you read in this blog then I highly suggest you stop reading right now. There will be spoilers…so if you keep reading…you have been warned.
What I learned last night and what has compelled me to write this blog, is that when a major Hollywood studio puts their stamp on a Christian movie, God is so downplayed that if you blink too many times you might actually miss Him.
Let me back this up just a bit. Years ago when I read the book Redeeming Love I wept and then wept some more. Then I told everybody I knew that they HAD to read this book. I had never read a book like this before. A fictional tale woven around the story found in the Bible book of Hosea, where God tells the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, the prostitute. The author of Redeeming Love took the premise of this biblical story and created the fictional story of Michael Hosea and Angel/Sarah. In the novel the reader is instantly drawn in by Angel/Sarah who has been so brutally victimized by her circumstances, something that happened often to women with no means and no options in the pre-modern world. In complete contrast to that you have Michael Hosea. The young farmer, faithful to God in every way, who simply prays for God to bring him a wife. I’m not go into all the details, many of you probably already know them. However, what stood out to me most in the book, the very thing that made me weep, the very thing that left me awed at the end…was the very thing missing from the movie. GOD! His character, His nature, and His redeeming love.
In the book Michael clearly hears the voice of God multiple times tell him that Angel is the wife He has given him. The reader sees Michael’s angst and how he wrestles with this and even asks why, several times. The movie downplays this at best.
In the book Angel is so broken by the circumstances of her life. The movie actually does a fabulous job of portraying this. However, as Michael begins to chip away at all her defenses the movie fails to really capture how Angel must come to the place of understanding that Jesus is her true Savior, not Michael.
In the book the intimacy between Michael and Angel is special, its almost sacred. As he patiently waits to redefine what sexual intimacy truly is between a husband and wife for Angel who was sold into prostitution as a young girl. God’s true desire for marriage comes alive on the pages for the reader. However, the movie completely misses the mark on this. Now don’t get me wrong, Michael is patient and he waits. He wants Angel to know he loves her. However, the steam level of the love scene is quite a few notches higher than necessary in a story rooted out of the Bible. Now please hear me, God is not a prude. He doesn’t believe sex is bad…not at all. He gave us sexual intimacy as a gift to be enjoyed between a husband and a wife. However, some things do not need to be so graphically portrayed on screen…especially when the majority of the target audience will not be expecting it and the sacredness of what occurs is completely lost by it.
In the end the movie failed to seize the greatest opportunity it had…to highlight the true nature of God’s redeeming love. To show audiences everywhere that it was God who kept pursuing Angel in her brokenness, Michael was merely the vessel He used to rescue her. To the viewer who may know nothing of the book of Hosea, the Bible, or God there is a great possibility that they will walk away from the movie thinking it was a great love story about a man who loved a broken women to wholeness because he prayed a few times. How unfortunate is that. Because as the reader you walk away from the book thinking what an incredible story about the way that God loves us. That His love is greater than our past, our circumstances, and our bad choices. He can redeem us from anything through His Son Jesus Christ. Through Michael’s faithfulness to God we see how it is possible to love in a supernatural way no matter how problematic that love is or how much we might question the wisdom of God’s plan. This was so much more than a love story between Michael and Angel…it was a love story between God and Angel. All of this is missing from the movie. You cannot play a Lauren Daigle song at the end and think that points it all to God. The mark has been way missed by that point.
The saddest moment of the night for me was when my friends who had not read the book really had no desire to after the movie. Thankfully these friends already love Jesus so they don’t need a fictional story to illustrate the redeeming love of our God. My pray at this point is that for those who watch this movie and maybe don’t know Jesus…that the movie may draw them to the book. For it is on the pages of the book that it is clear that God is the true and only source of redeeming love.
My recommendation…if you are lover of the book…you might want to skip the movie. Especially if what you loved most was God’s redemptive power. In all fairness, the movie was well done from a cinematic aspect, the story is compelling, and I did still cry at the end. Maybe because I know the true beauty of the whole story. But I definitely would have preferred a less is more approach to the love scenes.
Finally, if you were thinking about bringing your teenage or younger daughters to this movie…mama’s, I HIGHLY recommend you see it first. The subject matter, as you know from the book, is very adult and disturbing at times. As well as the fact that this is a Hollywood production and some scenes show just enough before is crosses the line into becoming a R rated movie.
Thank you for indulging my amateur Siskle and Ebert attempt. I am sure you won’t see me dabble in this realm often but when the Holy Spirit prompts, I write.