When Clark Davis makes a cross-country journey to visit the LaHaye’s cattle ranch, he finds a family trying to hold things together as they ride through tough financial times. Problems are only compounded when the infant Kathy LaHaye dies suddenly of unknown causes. Each family member is scattered from each other, dealing with grief in different unhealthy ways. Willie is forced to take an extra job as the town sheriff as many local families are struggling to make ends meet under the firm grip of the cruel mayor Samuel Doros. With so many negative circumstances pressing in around them, the Clark and the LaHayes will have to pull together and remember that the darkest times come right before the light.
Production Quality (2 points)
Consistent with the previous Love Comes Softly films, the production quality of Love’s Abiding Joy is above average. The video quality and sound quality are solid. The camera work is professional. However, there are some minor issues here, such as the stock musical score. In keeping with a main Michael Landon Jr. error, the costuming, especially the makeup, is inconsistent with the historical period. Also, the editing is very choppy, not giving any opportunity to truly engage in the story, as will be discussed further next. But in sum, Abiding Joy looks good on the surface and is mostly good in this area.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
As previously alluded to, the plot seems like a collection of random scenes glued together. It meanders without any real identity, forcing too many different issues together in one storyline. In the midst of this, the tragic struggles of the characters cannot be connected with or accessed by the audience because they seem very shallow. The dialogue is quite stock; no care is given to originality. Each character is very procedural and stereotypical, including the cheesy villain. Abiding Joy begins a new theme of the remainder of the Love Comes Softly series: forced extra romance subplots. At this point, the original novel plots have been completely abandoned. On a brighter note, this grief story had some great potential, but it was left untapped. There is a slightly interesting twist at the end of the story, but it’s pretty much washed over by all the other negative elements. Unfortunately, that’s the only good that can be said.
Acting Quality (.5 point)
Abiding Joy marks the beginning of vain actors and actresses in this film franchise. Dale Midkiff once again takes on a large role in this movie, and it’s not a good thing. Other cast members portray annoying forced emotions and awkward line delivery. Erin Cottrell has a lot of half-screamed lines. The only good element to bring light to here is the presence of at least some good acting, though it’s just not enough.
Love’s Abiding Joy had just as much of an original idea behind the plot as Love’s Long Journey did, but the originality is left on the proverbial playing field. We need more movies about the real struggles of families portrayed in realistic settings, but this film just doesn’t cut it. There was a significant decrease in overall quality in this fourth Love Comes Softly installment, and unfortunately, it was the unhindered beginning of a major slide for the film saga.
Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points
This movie is laughable if you read the book, they completely changed the entire plot. In my opinion, this is because they couldn’t find a person to play Marty. Love’s Abiding Joy speaks of Marty and Clark going to visit Missie and Willie out west. Clark attempts to rescue two boys from a mine cave-in, and ends up crushing his leg. A local doctor, who has up to this point been afraid to put his training into practice (his brother committed suicide shortly after an operation at his hands), amputates Clark’s leg. Saving his life and giving him the courage to set up his own practice. The novel also resolves a longstanding unresolved issue between the Davises and one of their former neighbors (they adopted his daughters as he didn’t want them). So you see, as with all of the Love books, there is ample information here with which to make a good Christian film. However, this movie franchise is a disgrace to the spirit of Janette Oke’s novels.