Producer(s): Cindy Bond, Simon Swart, Wayne Fitzjohn, Michael Scott, David A.R. White, Brittany Yost, Roma Downey, Francine Rivers
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Abigail Cowen, Nina Dobrev, Famke Janssen, Tom Lewis, Eric Dane, more TBA
Plot summary: Based on Rivers’ bestselling novel, the story takes place against the romantic backdrop of the California Gold Rush of 1850. The story centers on Angel, who was sold into prostitution as a child. She has survived through hatred and self-loathing until she meets Michael Hosea and discovers there is no brokenness that love can’t heal.
Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, novels are judged based on plot continuity and storytelling skills, character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue that relates to current issues in American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.
Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Series changed the way people looked at Christian fiction. The safe and meaningless romances of the past were challenged by her raw storytelling and love that arose from the ashes of pain, suffering, and heartbreak. Rivers fearlessly portrayed real life – everything, even the messy stuff. Likewise, the Erwin brother’s recent blockbuster I Can Only Imagine – which is based on a true story – showed Christian audiences that the only way out of the dark is through it. Movies cannot avoid the hard things in life and focus only on hearts and flowers, or on sadness and worldly pleasures. No one will learn anything if entertainment continues to do this. Sadly, Christian movies often fall into the former situation, and if not, their portrayals of real life issues are often half-baked. For this reason, I continue to believe that Christian filmmakers should use the content that is already there. Rivers has proven that people can write relevant fiction based on historical fact, and the Erwins have proven that true stories revolving around social issues make the best movies. Therefore, the Erwins should use their new platform to make Christian miniseries/TV series based off of Christian books. They can start by bringing the Mark of the Lion to the big screen. This book series contains plenty of social issues to choose from – abortion, homosexuality, dysfunctional families, unhealthy relationships, slavery, etc. However, it would likely need the rough edges sanded off a bit for the big screen, for not all of Rivers’ raw content would translate well to movie form. Likewise, some of the secondary characters – namely Marcus and Julia’s friends – might need to be edited out or toned down. However, I firmly believe that the Erwins have the editing skills to make this happen. Second, I have no concerns about character development, for it is already there in the books, and the Erwins are masters in this area. Third, production would need great attention and some artistic flair. Additionally, they would need to branch out to a new filming location that at least looks like Rome and the surrounding areas. Finally, casting would need careful attention. I would suggest their usual mix of good secular and Christian actors, along with several racially diverse cast members that include some Israeli and other Arabic ethinicities to make the movie more culturally sound. I have full confidence that the Erwins could pull this off. Plus, a challenge would be good for them.
Dream Cast for a Mark of the Lion TV series
Hadassah: Keisha Castle-Hughes would make a great Hadassah. She is good at portraying a quiet, unassuming personality that hides an inner strength. Plus, she has already proven her acting skills in the Nativity Story movie.
Marcus Valerian: Joseph Fiennes is good at portraying men of Marcus’ personality, plus, he has the look for it.
Mrs. Valerian: Nicole Duport would be perfect for this role in every way. She has the look (her Amy Grant portrayal) and the talent to pull it off.
Mr. Valerian: Olivier Martinez would be great at portraying this character. He has already proven his ability to portray a confident, strong-willed character who likes authority in Paul, Apostle of Christ.
Julia Valerian: I leave this character up to the masters of casting. The actress playing this role would need to have the ability to portray a selfish, thoughtless, impulsive, and strong-willed female who is up for anything that goes against her parent’s wishes.
Alexander the physician: Jim Caviezel, he would draw attention to the film and is also good at portraying a prideful, self-confident character such as this.
Calabah: Shohreh Aghdashloo, I have no words for how well she could portray this character. She’s a great villian/evil mentor.
Atretes: This role needs to be filled by someone of German or similar heritage who can portray a character who has emotional ups and downs – who gets easily angry and tends to go on emotional highs. I must stipulate that such an actor be cast not only for his appearance, but primarily for his acting skills. It would be easy to fill this role with a generic muscled man who can’t act.
Caius (Julia’s first husband): James Faulkner could fill this role, if he masked his British accent like he did in his most recent Christian film. Likewise, Robert Bathurst has the perfect personality for this character – if only he wasn’t British.
Theophilus: Ralph Fiennes has the look, talent, and imposing presence to fill this role very well. Though he is an English actor, he is not actually British. His family tree includes people from Irish, Scottish, and Norman heritage.
Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love has touched many lives and reached many people as a novel, however, we are at BOR believe it would reach many more as a film. Many people do not understand this story in it’s current form, and some may be repulsed by the many raw and honest characteristics found throughout the novel. Until recently, sex trafficking was not realized as a crime happening within U.S. borders, and I wonder if some still do not realize just how long the crime has been in existence. You see, in the 1850’s and before, prostitutes were and are despised and rejected by society as bad people who could have done better. Those doing the rejecting gave no thought to the circumstances that led these women and girls to their present condition, nor did they offer help and freedom to those in bondage. In this era, and sometimes in the present, women with no husband or father often became so destitute and hungry that they were driven to sell themselves to survive. Furthermore, some poor families sold their children into sex slavery so that they could eat. In Redeeming Love, Sarah is the latter. She knew nothing but a life of being used and abused by men, and was afraid to escape because she would be beaten into submission. When a honorable man did arrive, she didn’t trust him at first, and later was afraid to start over. It took a tragedy to secure her freedom, and many sacrifices to help her stay free. Similarly, the Smallbone brothers’ landmark film Pricelesshas reached many people by proclaiming a “call to arms” of sorts for people to recognize and seek to help those currently in slavery. The film took a personal look at sex slavery by asking the audience how far they would go if it was their daughter, sister, etc. in bondage. Redeeming Love asks the same question, but in a different way. For this reason, I feel that the Smallbone brothers next project should be making Redeeming Love into an epic film. Think of it as the sequel to Priceless. We’ve seen slavery through the eyes of an impoverished woman and through the eyes of a father, but not through the eyes of a child who grew up a slave. There are very few that we would entrust with this task, for Francine Rivers’ most popular book has the potential to change the culture. The Smallbones should do this, not because of their notoriety, but because they have already demonstrated a deep understanding of the topic, and a commitment to above par Christian films. Those who were not reached by Priceless would be reached by a film based on RedeemingLove. However, for this to happen, we have certain requirements that we believe must be met because they reflect the reasons why Rivers has turned down other filmmakers in the past.
Francine Rivers must work directly with the filmmakers throughout the entire process to ensure that the original plot content is upheld, casting is accurate, and that a strong commitment to character development drives everyone’s actions
Redeeming Love should be an epic film that focuses on Sarah’s life up to the end of the novel
The Smallbones should collaborate with the Erwins, as they have done in the past, to ensure maximum potential is reached
Cast members should be diverse in ethnicity, age, and circumstance, to ensure that people from all walks of life are reflected in the story
Time jumps should be minimal or nonexistent; the Erwins are masters of this technique
Finally, if the Smallbones cast themselves in the film, they must act alongside their wives
To conclude, the team at BOR has developed a dream cast for this film. These suggestions derive from a study of how these actors have performed in the past, and our belief in their untapped potential.
Sarah/Angel: Moriah Smallbone is the only actress that can portray the heart of this character with gravitas.
Michael Hosea: Joel Smallbone has already proven that he can act well, and fits the personality of this character. The Erwins could coach him to improve upon his performance in Priceless.
Paul (Michael’s brother): Jim Caviezel would be great in this role. Paul’s character is passionate yet bitter, and caring yet afraid to come out of his shell. He is overconfident yet yearns for more. Caviezel has proven his ability to portray diverse characters in the past, and would draw unlikely viewers to the premiere. Our only concern is his age, which is a bit too old. We would like to see the Erwins ideas for this character.
The Duchess: Shohreh Aghdashlo is quite talented at playing a villian, and could easily become this character.
Mr. Altman: Luke Smallbone is a good fit for this role because Mr. Altman is described as loving, protective, and gentle.
Mrs. Altman: Courtney Smallbone is very similar in real life to this character. She has a strong faith in God and acts as a role model for younger women and fellow mothers. Plus, she and Luke already have three kids that could play the role of Miriam’s younger siblings.
Miriam Altman: Masey McLain would be great in this role. She has played several whimsical, artistic characters in the past, and can do it again. Plus, McLain and Caviezel would be a very interesting match-up onscreen.
Jonathan Axle: Believe it or not, I think Brett Rice could be really good in this role. He is an established actor in Christian circles, and is good at playing a gruff but compassionate 60-something male character.
Susanna Axle: Rhoda Griffis, because, why not? She’s a good matronly character who adds sass and spunk to any movie she’s in.
UPDATE: The rating for this novel has been changed after further review by our team.
This new novel tells the tale of two hurting people, one has buried his past with the hopes of escaping the darkness of his life, and the other has picked up the broken pieces of her life and is trying to move forward. This is not your typical romance novel nor is it your typical prodigal son tale either. It meets somewhere in the middle and adds many intriguing elements to become one of the most unique tales on the market today. The Masterpiece deals with subjects such as childhood trauma and abuse, absent parents, street culture, gangs, romantic relationships, mentors, death, grief, bitterness, pain, evil, near-death experiences, single parenthood, broken lives, and the healing power of God’s love and forgiveness. Roman Velasco is a wealthy and successful artist who appears to have it all together….at least…in the eyes of the public. To those who know him better, he is a dark and brooding soul who is angry at God, mad at the world, and afraid to voice the events of his past. The first thing to know about Roman is that he used to be Bobby Ray Dean, a person that he has left behind in pursuit of new opportunities. Bobby Ray Dean grew up in a single parent home with an absent father, his mother was a prostitute who overdosed one night and left him alone in the world, a fact that was concealed from him for a time. Bobby escaped from every foster home he was placed in until one day he learned the truth, which sent him into a downward spiral that led to gang membership and his notoriety as a talented graffiti artist. This path led him to a special program for troubled boys at a ranch that is a far cry from his city upbringing. Against his will, he forms healthy relationships for the first time, and gains a desperately needed mentor. His new mentor, Jasper, appears to be an eccentric tutor at first glance, but is unyielding in his faith in God. When Bobby leaves the ranch and becomes Roman Velasco, Jasper still keeps up with him and continually tries to point him in the right direction(s).When Roman meets Grace, he is a well-established artist. He hires Grace from a temp agency to manage his files and correspondence, but she soon finds out that the job description involves managing his tattered life. Grace’s trusting nature has been broken from her life experiences, but her newfound caution will prove necessary when interacting with her colorful boss. As a young adult, one broken relationship led to another, and she now has a five-month old son. A near-death experience will test Grace’s endurance and Roman’s belief that God does not exist. Will Roman turn to the only One that can heal his scars? Will Grace stand firm in the face of temptation? To answer these questions, read the book!:) I think that this novel would make a great Christian film. Finally, regardless of who decides to make this book into a film, I think that they should leave the viewer with a question at the end, rather than tying up all the loose ends like the book did. Even though this is not Rivers best novel, someone should recognize Francine Rivers’ books for the great potential that they have!
In this series of novellas, Francine Rivers delights readers with her perception of the stories of five important women in the line of Christ. While this series is not as groundbreaking as some of her other novels, it is poignantly different than many novels in the Biblical fiction genre. Rivers has never been afraid to make her characters flawed and human, and this series is no exception. I particularly liked that in the novella about Mary the mother of Christ she did not make Mary out to be holy and perfect. Rather, Rivers painted her as a human character who loved God with all her heart, but who also became impatient in waiting for His plans for Jesus’ life on earth to be fulfilled. The series points out the strengths and weaknesses of each woman, and shows how God can use anyone for His divine purposes. In Unveiled, Rivers tells the story of Tamar, and woman who suffered much at the hands of Judah and his sons. Tamar is forced to marry Judah’s firstborn, a man she does not love, while she is still a teenager. Her inability to to produce an heir makes her the subject of ridicule at the hands of Judah’s tempestuous wife. When her first husband is struck down by God for his insolence, Judah gives her his second son. This second husband proves to be more crafty than the first, but no less repellent. When God strikes down her second husband for his disobedience, Judah refuses to obey God’s law and give her his final son. As Tamar waits on Judah to act, she grows impatient and righteously angry. In Unashamed, Rivers tells the story of how God used an unlikely source, a female prostitute named Rahab, to further the lineage of Christ. Rahab aids Joshua’s spies by hiding them from their pursuers, an act that saves not only her life and that of her family from God’s judgement, but also grants her freedom from slavery. Rahab goes on to bear a son named Boaz, who is known for marrying Ruth and continuing the line of Christ. In Unshaken, Rivers tells the story of how God brought beauty from the ashes of Ruth’s life and blessed her abundantly for her service to Him. Ruth has just suffered the death of her husband Mahlon, and shares her mother-in-law Naomi’s grief over the death of her own husband, and that of her sister Orpah, who mourns Naomi’s other son Chilion. In despair, Naomi decides to return to her homeland, and invites her daughters-in-law to join her. While both sisters initially join Naomi, only Ruth commits to the entire journey. In Israel Ruth is cruelly oppressed by locals because of her Moabite heritage, yet, she finds joy in God’s provision of her basic needs. Ruth will go on to marry the wealthy kinsman redeemer Boaz and bear a son named Obed, who continues the line of Christ. In Unspoken, Rivers tells the tale of how Bathsheba and David receive the consequences for their decision to commit adultery one dark night. Rivers holds both parties responsible, instead of painting Bathsheba as innocent, as some authors have done. In the novel, Bathsheba suffers the loss of her firstborn son as a result of God’s judgement. Yet, she is blessed with other children after she and David repent of their sin. God chooses Bathsheba to bear David’s successor, Solomon, who continues the lineage of Christ. In Unafraid, Rivers tells the well-known story of how a humble woman named Mary submitted to God’s will for her life, a decision that altered the destiny of humankind. In this retelling, Mary is depicted as a simple woman who follows God with her whole heart and is faithful to her husband. Mary trusts God’s plan, yet often becomes impatient as Jesus grows up, each year hoping that Jesus will declare his sovereignty and that God will save His people through his only Son. Mary must learn throughout her life that God knows best and that when she submits to His will, she will be blessed abundantly. This series is definitely worth a read and would make an excellent Christian miniseries. The characters in the novels are well-developed, and it is my opinion that the screenwriters’ job would be easy with this series, as Rivers is very descriptive in her writing, and has already included additional dialogue for smaller character roles. I look forward to the day when filmmakers will recognize Rivers’ novels and bring them to the big screen.
And the Shofar Blew is a thought-provoking novel by Francine Rivers that is built around the framework of the Christian church. The novel examines just how easy it is for a pastor to lead his members astray in the pursuit of growth. It also takes a convicting look at how the actions of the church members can affect an entire community in a negative way. Jesus said that His followers should be the light of the world; they should be doing everything they can to influence the world for the better, not join the crowd. This book takes a look at what happens when Christians follow only the good feelings and never get to the heart of the matter. In spite of it’s many good qualities and Biblically-based content, I found the first one-third of the book to be less than engaging. However, I was impressed by the way Rivers’ built on the simple beginning and formed flawed characters at every turn. The novel deals with subjects such as the church body, pastors, generational sin, family patterns, every person’s inner need for parental approval, spiritual blindness, selfishness, pain, grief, struggle, death, life, and the healing power of God’s never-ending love for us. The opening chapters of And the Shofar Blew introduce the reader to one of the three main characters, an older man named Samuel Mason. Samuel is weary of spirit, yet his mind is full of ideas. He and two other men are watching a church that they helped to build and nurture slip from their hands. Their original pastor has become consumed with his health problems, and can no longer shepherd their small flock at Centerville Christian Church. Unfortunately, the congregation numbers have been on the decline for some time, and Samuel feels that if they do not act fast, the church will close it’s doors and never reopen. After discussing his plans with the other elders, Samuel begins to look for a new pastor. He finds an excellent prospect in a young man named Paul Hudson. Paul is everything that any small church would want in a new pastor, he has it all, a popular TV preacher for a father, a flawless resume, and the perfect little family. There’s just one problem, and it is one that will not be apparent until much after he is hired; Paul feels that he will never be enough for his father. While this feeling is justified to some extent, Paul must learn to find his worth in Christ alone, which is easier said than done. Samuel hires Paul as the church’s new pastor, and at first, everything goes well. The congregation grows and becomes more diverse, Paul’s sermons are Biblically sound and convicting, and his sweet, musically-talented wife Eunice and adorable son Timmy do much to brighten up the drab walls of Centerville Christian. However, it is not long before Paul allows his work to take first place in his life. He forgets all about Eunice and Timmy, and begins to do whatever he feels is best for the church….even if that means driving away those who could have helped him to see the light. Samuel Mason tries to offer words of wisdom, but is brushed off by Paul at every turn. Meanwhile, Eunice bears the burden of Paul’s insults and careless behavior. Yet, she is not perfect either, and almost allows temptation to lead to sin in her weakness. However, unlike her husband, she runs into the arms of her Savior before it is too late. Will Paul recognize his faults before it is too late? Will he ask God for forgiveness and begin to repair broken relationships before he loses all that he holds dear? To answer these questions, read the book! I think that this novel could make an excellent drama film that portrays the inner workings of the church, including the skeletons in the closet. I would like to see someone make a movie that is at least similar to this plot, but, like always, we await the glorious day when filmmakers will use the content they already have to truly make a difference.
Leota’s Garden is Francine Rivers’ best novel because it has both real-world application and well-crafted moral arguments that do not try to entice the reader to one side or another. The novel weaves together the Biblical principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and reconciliation together to form a beautiful story about how God can bring beauty from any circumstance in our lives. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, Leota Reinhardt. Leota is a lonely, elderly widow who cannot see God’s purpose in her life. She has lived alone ever since the death of her husband, and her family is highly dysfunctional. She exists inside her small house, living off of monthly Social Security checks and hoping that someday she and her daughter Eleanor can be reconciled. On many occasions she considers hastening her path towards death, but every time the Lord gives her a reason to keep living. Leota longs for God to bring someone her way to ease her pain and give her purpose. Corban Solsek is a prideful, arrogant university student attending an elite school with only the smartest students. He feels that he knows everything he needs to know about life and that no one should tell him otherwise. Corban is working on a term project about nursing homes. He sees no reason why the elderly shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind, and cared for by unattached individuals who could care less if they live or die. This sounds bad, but he is truly ignorant in the fact that he is wrong….about many things. When Providence causes Corban and Leota’s paths to cross, both of their lives will be forever changed. Overall, this novel has an excellent, creative storyline with great continuity and an engaging structure. The plot does not drag along, as one might expect from the topic at hand, rather, the reader is presented with many social scenarios that may cause them to search their own hearts. For these and other reasons, Rivers receives a perfect score in this section.
Character Development (3.5 points)
The two protagonists dominate much of the novel, but the minor characters have meaningful contributions that make for a well-rounded read. Rivers does an excellent job of weaving together the lives of four seemingly dissimilar individuals, and shows how God can work together all things together for good. Each character has a realistic journey that reflects the many different paths people take before they realize their need for a Savior. Additionally, Rivers embarks on a new kind of depth and rawness with this cast that reflects personal maturity. The only real flaw to point out here is that Eleanor comes off as a bit of a strawman. However, we are given realistic reasons for her behavior, and her actions are believable in the context of American families. Additionally, sometimes Annie seems a bit too perfect. However, her good qualities may be unintentionally emphasized when compared to her slightly crazed family members. Therefore, Rivers earns just shy of a perfect score in this section for these, her best characters to date.
Creativity & Originality (2 points)
Finally, Rivers earns a full point in originality for portraying multiple social issues without being preachy or overbearing. She makes every effort to leave the door open for the reader’s own conclusions, which is greatly appreciated by us here at BOR – this is how people should be treated. Rivers also earns a rarely awarded x-factor point in creativity for crafting a novel that stands apart from its genre as something we would actually recommend to non-Christians. Additionally, we here at BOR feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian epic film. However, a Christian filmmaker could go multiple directions with the novel, they could make it an epic about Leota’s life, and downplay the subplots of the other characters, or they could make it a drama film that included equal input from all the main characters. In conclusion, this novel is a must read for any Christian fiction lover, and an excellent source of quality content for any prospective filmmaker.
Her Mother’s Hope is the second and final installment in Francine River’s Marta’s Legacy series. This novel covers the lives of four people, and does so in a tasteful way. Rivers binds four generations together by pointing our their mutual flaws and their common need for forgiveness. Her Mother’s Hope deals with subjects such as sin, flawed family systems, generational tendencies, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters, purity, impurity, life choices, love, joy, hope, healing, and the ties that bind families together. The opening chapters of the book introduce the character to Hildemara’s daughter, Carolyn. Returning readers of the first novel will remember that Hildemara is Marta’s daughter. Carolyn is a lonely little girl who misses her mother. As Hildemara fights tuberculosis from behind a bedroom door, Carolyn wonders why her mother tells her to stay away. Carolyn’s grandmother Marta comes to the rescue by stepping in to care for Carolyn and her older brother Charlie. As Hildemara pushes her daughter away out of love, Carolyn begins to form a close bond with her grandmother. Even when Hildemara recovers, Carolyn still feels that her mother is indifferent to her existence. Eventually Carolyn stops seeking her mother’s affection, and with both parents working long days, this is not hard to do. Eventually her vulnerability leads her into the hands of a neighbor with less than pure intentions. As he draws her into his lair, she discovers that she does not want to play his games. However, it is too late, and the damage done will last a lifetime. As Carolyn grows up, she feels distant from her peers, and focuses instead on her studies. Her relationship with her mother does not improve, and Carolyn decides to take her perfect GPA to her grandmother’s favorite college. At first she is entirely committed to her studies, and lets nothing sway her resolve. Then….she gets a new roommate. Cher is the complete opposite of Carolyn; she embraces the hippie lifestyle with gusto. Soon Carolyn sees the attractiveness of a carefree lifestyle, and her grades begin to slip. Eventually she is drinking and doing drugs with no care as to the side effects. Much to her parents chagrin, she drops out of college and moves into a communal drug house. Cher’s eventual suicide is the turning point in Carolyn’s life. When Cher dies, Carolyn is in despair. She wanders the streets in search of meaning, and finds it one night on the beach. Following a hookup with a lonely veteran, she meets her Maker on the seashore and discovers what love really is. Carolyn returns home to her parents, who make sure that she leaves her hippie ways behind and gets a job. However, when Carolyn discovers she is pregnant, she is fired. Her parents pack her away to a family friend, where she delivers her daughter, May Flower Dawn. Carolyn reluctantly decides to let her mother care for Dawn during her long work days, and Dawn is raised by Hildemara while Carolyn works to become a realtor. By the time she reaches her goal, Dawn has grown to love her grandmother as a child loves her mother. Carolyn tries to regain her love, but finds that some bridges are very hard to build. Following Carolyn’s marriage to a childhood friend named Mitch, the novel shifts from Carolyn’s perspective to Dawn’s. Dawn is a spoiled girl who is looking for love in all the wrong places. Controlled by her grandmother’s selfish desires, she unintentionally reopens her mother’s old wounds. Will Carolyn and Dawn ever be reconciled? Will Hildemara see the part she has played in their rift? Most importantly, will all three run into the arms of the One who loves them most? To answer this question, read the book! I have considered the idea that this novel could make a two part film series, however, I always return to the fact that the content of both books combined would make a wonderful Christian epic film. Maybe someday someone will recognize the potential found in certain Christian novels….or maybe not…
Her Mother’s Hope is the first book in the short, two-part series by Francine Rivers, which is titled Marta’s Legacy. The novel is set in early 1900’s Switzerland; the main character’s homeland. This is but one in a long line of excellent novels by Rivers. Where some reviewers have criticized her, I applaud her for being culturally authentic in the novel by weaving in parts of the German and French languages. This factor adds a unique flavor to the novel; somehow it brings a depth that would not otherwise be there if the book was solely written in the English language. Her Mother’s Hope deals with subjects such as abusive fathers, family tension, World War 1, immigration, escape, death, grief, loss, bitterness, stubbornness, generational sin, and much more. The opening chapters of the book introduce the reader to the main character, Marta Schneider. Marta has grown up under the heavy hand of her abusive father, and the feeble will of her sickly mother. Her mother loves her, but she loves her younger sister, Elise, much more. Elise is pampered and treated as an equal because of her beauty, while Marta is treated harshly. For a time, Marta finds fulfillment in working for a French family who treat her as an equal, but her world comes crashing down when she finds out that her sister is pregnant as a result of rape. Elise finds that she cannot live with the horror of what has happened to her, and, lost in grief, takes her own life. Shortly after this Marta’s frail mother dies of consumption…and a broken heart. When her older brother Hermann decides to escape these troubles by going to war, Marta is left alone with her drunken father. He plans to make money by having her follow his will. Marta’s hatred for her father drives her to flee her broken home. She soon falls in love and marries a young Swiss man named Niclas Berhard. As they try to find a place to settle down, Niclas’s German tongue rouses suspicion during times of war and unrest. Niclas wants Marta to come with him to the wilderness of Canada, but she refuses and opens a boarding house. For a time, this brings much needed funds, but eventually Marta has to move with her husband and newborn son to the place she hates. In Canada a second child is born to Marta, a sickly little girl whom she names Hildamara Rose. Marta hardens her heart against the child, thinking she will die. However, Hildamara lives and exceeds her expectations. In spite of this, Marta refuses to show affection to her eldest daughter, and pretends to love her other children more. All throughout Hildamara’s childhood Marta treats her in the same manner, therefore becoming like the man she still hates, her father. Will Marta see the error of her ways and begin to rebuild broken relationships? Will she let her broken past rule her more promising present? To answer these questions, read the book! Her Mother’s Hope, combined with the sequel, would make an excellent Christian drama film. In fact, a truly talented creator could tailor the film to be an epic, as the story follows someone’s whole life. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to long for the day when Christian filmmakers will recognize the untapped potential found in superior works of Christian fiction such as these.
The Scarlet Thread is one of Francine Rivers’ many excellent Christian novels. However, unlike many of her books, in the beginning the story seems to be a bit pedestrian; compared to her more epic tales. Yet, as the reader will soon find, the story has just as much meaning as her other novels, even though the outcome of the story is a bit idealistic. I feel that this story is more relevant in regards to the everyday, for her other novels are usually geared towards the big picture. This novel deals with subjects such as family tension, generational struggles and sin, marital relationships, upper class American families, friendship, betrayal, lies, truth, and the search for meaning and purpose in life. The opening chapters introduce the readers to the two main characters, Sierra and Alex. Sierra is a small-town girl who has lived in the same place her whole life. She met her true love, Alex, in high school, and, despite her family’s disapproval, married him when they both graduated from college. Soon they had two children and a seemingly perfect life, or so Sierra thinks. Sierra would be happy to live in suburbia and follow the same routines for the rest of her life, but Alex does not want to settle for so little. One day he is offered a job with a risky company trying to make their big break. He accepts without consulting Sierra, sells their home, and moves his family to Los Angeles. Sierra is angry with him for these decisions, and begins to become bitter. She does not enjoy the lavish, if somewhat gaudy taste of her rich neighbors, and is hesitant to join in on their country club activities. Eventually Alex tires of her moping, and gives her an ultimatum. Sierra decides that if she can’t beat the crowd, she might as well join them. Time goes on, and as Sierra sinks deeper into a frivolous life of pomp and circumstance, she feels increasingly empty inside. As her world begins to fall apart, Sierra searches for true meaning and purpose in life. Will she run into the arms of the One who loves her completely? To answer this question, read the book!;) The Scarlet Thread would be a good novel for the Kendrick Brothers to bring to the big screen as a drama film, especially since they have produced similar plots to this one before. In conclusion, here’s to hoping that someone will, someday soon, realize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.
Redeeming Love is the greatest Christian fiction novel I have ever read (many spoilers ahead). It is Francine River’s testimony told through her characters. It is the only book that I have ever read that describes God’s unconditional love for us with such depth and truth. Rivers, as usual, delves straight into the very heart of the story, exposing the raw and gritty elements for all to see, and therefore gives an excellent example of the depth of God’s forgiveness. Redeeming Love deals with subjects such as sin, prostitution, violation, bitterness, anger, hurt, forgiveness, God’s redeeming, unconditional love, the Biblical definition of marriage, the Biblical definition of sex, friendships, healing, and peace. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, a young girl named Sarah. Sarah is the product of an affair between her mother and a married man. Her biological father wishes that she had never been born, and her mother cares more about her own happiness than Sarah’s. For a time, Sarah and her mother are supported by her biological father, but eventually he casts them aside. They slowly sell all that they own in order to survive…until Sarah’s mother is forced to sell herself to willing buyers. She becomes ill and dies, leaving Sarah in the hands of a foolish drunk. He accidentally sells her into prostitution before he is murdered by Sarah’s new master. Sarah, only eight years of age, quickly learns that her new master desires her complete submission, and seeks to steal her innocence. She is his captive for quite some time. When she finally does escape, she accepts the offer to board a ship heading the opposite direction of her captor’s lair. While on board she learns that her passage comes at a cost. Sarah eventually ends up working for a local brothel, and there she comes to be known as the notorious prostitute named Angel. Angel continues to live a miserable life, until one day….a man named Michael Hosea walks into her room. He is not like all the other men who walk through her doors, for all he desires is a conversation. He tries to convince her to marry him and gain a better life. She is afraid to accept for a time, and initially refuses his offer. After a nearly fatal beating by her ‘bodyguard’, she accepts Michael’s offer and leaves with him. Michael proves to be a caring and loving husband, nursing her back to health and seeking to draw her out of her shell. Angel resists his love for the longest time, and at first only desires to escape her marriage. Michael keeps bringing her back and reaffirming his love for her. He calls her Amanda instead of Angel, and teaches her to cook and farm their land. She betrays his love by escaping once again with his brother, Paul. However, Michael brings her back again, and tries his hardest to teach her about God’s love. She decides to stay for a while, and eventually becomes friends with their new neighbors. However, the time will come when she will have to make a final decision regarding her beliefs about God, love, and life. What will she decide? To answer this question, read the book!;) This novel would make a landmark Christian epic, and in the right hands, could change the culture. I am certain that if someone decided to bring this book to the big screen, and did their absolute best to remain true to the spirit of the novel; then this would be my favorite Christian film.
Bridge to Haven is one of Francine Rivers’ newest novels, and while it had mixed reviews among Christian bloggers, I think that it is up to her usual standards. Some berated Rivers for the rather graphic content she included in this novel, saying that it did not deserve the Christian genre, while others praised her for bringing a difficult topic into the light and exposing the raw pain that is involved. The topic that I am speaking of is sexual abuse and sin. I do think that Rivers could have been more cautious with some of the content that she included, but, on the other hand, if Christians continue to be silent on this issue, nothing will change. I have always appreciated the raw honesty that Rivers reflects in her writing, and this is perhaps her most edgy novel yet. So, if you do not wish to read a novel on this topic, don’t. If, however, you wish to be exposed to an interesting side of the argument, read the novel with an open mind. Set in the 1950’s, the opening chapters of Bridge to Haven introduce the reader to a young woman named Abra who has a scarred past. Abra was found as an abandoned newborn by a pastor named Ezekiel Freeman. Ezekiel took Abra into his home and raised her as his own daughter. Abra had it all, a church home, the love of a family, and a bright future. Yet, she chose her career over these gifts and acted on her dream to be an actress by going to Hollywood. However, she learns that the price she must pay to make it big is her innocence. Abra listens to and trusts a man whose only desire is to take everything she has to give. He claims that he loves her and will never leave her, yet, she soon discovers that he has told many girls the same lie. With his “help”, she is successful, to a point. However, the “payment” that he requires is not worth the benefits of a successful acting career. Abra learns this lesson too late, and begins to willingly fall prey to men’s lustful desires. One thing leads to another, and Abra soon finds herself broken, wounded, and at the end of her rope. Will she discover that the love and forgiveness she has been searching for all her life can be found in God alone? Will Abra escape the clutches of the world and run into the arms of Jesus? To answer these questions, read the book!;) I would definitely recommend this novel to no one younger than sixteen, as the subject matter is quite heavy and the content gritty. However, this would make a landmark Christian film, if done in the right way. The novel would definitely need some editing before hitting the big screen, but I believe that it has a lot of potential that a filmmaker could build on. If you are an aspiring filmmaker looking to take on a difficult subject that will make or break your career, look no further than this novel.
The Atonement Child…what a book, what a topic to take on. Francine Rivers takes this difficult subject on like a champ, and while some may say that this is not her best novel, I have always appreciated the story concept. Even in her early novels, it was clear that Rivers had God-given talent. We here at Box Office Revolution believe that it is time for this novel to grace the big screen with it’s presence. The Atonement Child covers subjects such as abortion, rape, Christianity, the sanctity of human life, tragedy, generational sin, marriage, parent-child relationships, sickness, selfishness, selflessness, and unconditional love. The opening sequence sets a nostalgic scene, featuring a young Christian college student who is finishing her night shift and heading back to her dorm. She bids farewell to her boss, declines the offer of a ride home, and heads out into the darkness on foot. When Dynah is almost back to her college, tragedy strikes, she is attacked by a stranger whose face she never sees. Her resulting pregnancy, and other events that follow, will change her life and the lives of those she loves forever. When Dynah’s ‘pro-life’ fiance learns she is pregnant, he suddenly decides that abortion is acceptable after all. Most of her friends tell her that it is okay to have an abortion because she didn’t love the father, and her parents are too horrified and occupied with their own problems to be of any help to her. To top it all off, the dean of the college kicks her out because he feels that her situation would be an embarrassment to their fine institution. There is, however, one person who cares about Dynah and secretly loves her unconditionally, but he is afraid to tell her how he feels. Eventually Dynah realizes that the only way she can think clearly is to get away from all the voices telling her what they think she should do. What will Dynah decide? While the ending of this novel is somewhat rushed, the spirit of the story is upheld. I think that Rivers could have taken the time to add a few additional chapters, therefore giving more depth to other subplots. However, in film context this is a small problem that could be easily fixed with the right writer and director. The writer/director would have to be careful to use original content, and adapt the film to clearly communicate the message to today’s audience. In the right hands, The Atonement Child could be an amazing movie. That being said, this is a project I would like to see the Erwins or one of their offshoots take on, as either one has the talent and resources to make this novel a great film. In conclusion, if you want to make a movie that will give people an honest look at problems in the church pro-life culture, look to this novel for inspiration.
A Voice in the Wind is the epic first novel in Francine River’s The Mark of the Lion Trilogy, this book covers topics such as starvation, slavery, captivity, persecution, a forbidden romance, family relationships, arranged marriages, secrets, sinful lifestyles, and deception. The beginning scene features a young girl and her starving family who are hiding in their home from the siege overtaking their homeland. One by one they die from starvation or cruelty, all except for Hadassah, who is captured and taken to Rome as a slave. She is purchased by a rich and influential family as a personal maid for their spoiled teenage daughter Julia, who cares for nothing but amusing herself. Hadassah begins to fall in love with Julia’s older brother Marcus, however, she is ashamed of her feelings for him, as he is not a Christian. The story begins to weave together the lives of the Valerians with Hadassah’s, creating a strong foundation for future installments in the series. The plot also introduces us to the third main character, Atretes, a young German chieftan who is captured by the Romans and put into service as a gladiator. Atretes hates his circumstances and makes sure that everyone around him is as miserable as he is. Eventually he decides that the only way out of the arena is to try to earn his freedom. A Voice in the Wind closes on a note of suspense, leaving Hadassah lying near death in the same arena where much of the novel occurs. How did she get there? You’ll have to read the book to find out.:) A Voice in the Wind gives a gritty and correct portrayal of Roman life, which featured all the pleasures the world could offer, and seemingly none of the consequences. This novel would serve as the perfect beginning for an epic Bible miniseries, if done correctly.
The second epic novel in this miniseries is titled An Echo in the Darkness, this book deals with subjects such as sickness, near-death experiences, sacrifice, bitterness, the consequences of sin, love, salvation, and the healing power of God. The opening scene of An Echo in the Darkness features a young physician named Alexander who has been assigned to preform examinations on the dead and dying captives who come through the arena. His first subject happens to be Hadassah, who has been torn nearly to pieces by the lions. He debates whether or not to let her die or try to save her, in the end, compassion wins out, and God uses him to save her life. They become friends, and she decides to remain in his home/treatment center as his personal assistant/nurse. Alexander soon discovers that God has given Hadassah the power to heal others through prayer. This fact not only brings him more business, but notoriety. Meanwhile, Marcus, who witnessed Hadassah’s apparent death in the arena, tries to comfort himself by traveling to her homeland and learning of her God. There is only one problem, he finds that this brings him no comfort or closure, only more grief. Julia, Hadassah’s former mistress, is reaping the consequences of living an immoral lifestyle. Eventually she and Hadassah’s paths cross again, and Hadassah becomes her servant for the second time, however, Julia does not recognize her identity, as Hadassah wears veils to conceal her scars. Atretes is more of a background character in this novel, as only one thing changes in his life. An Echo in the Darkness ends on a bittersweet note. What happens? You’ll have to read the book to find out.:)
The third and final novel, As Sure as the Dawn, focuses entirely on Atretes. This book deals with subjects such as spiritual warfare, family relationships, sacrificial love, war, peace, suffering, salvation, turmoil, reconciliation, and the mercy of God. The content of this novel is best left for the reader to decipher for themselves, as it deals with many topics that some may not feel comfortable with. In my opinion, As Sure is the Dawn is a powerful book, and probably one of the best novels on spiritual warfare that I have ever read. The biggest difficulty that someone would have while making this miniseries would be finding exceptional cast members to play the various main characters and background roles. If someone does decide to undertake this challenging project, and we certainly hope that they do, they would have to be prepared to dedicate at least a year to each installment of the series. This is the only way to ensure that quality, rather than quantity, is achieved. God has given Francine Rivers an amazing gift, and we here at Box Office Revolutionary believe that it is a gift that needs to be shared with the world.
Francine Rivers is, in my opinion, the greatest undiscovered Christian author to this day. She writes with a depth of emotion that has yet to be replicated in the world of Christian fiction. Rivers is a prime example of someone who is doing exactly what we believe God wants her to do, making a difference through writing. Here at Box Office Revolution we believe that it is time for someone to discover her books, and bring them to the big screen. Her most popular series is probably the Mark of the Lion Trilogy; a powerful epic series following the lives of a devout Christian Jewess, an arrogant young Roman and his family, an iron-willed Germanic chief, and many other characters who make this incredible work of fiction what it is. To see this trilogy come to life as film series would be amazing. The vast amount of content found in the three books (A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as The Dawn), would best be portrayed in a epic miniseries. Truly meaningful miniseries are few and far between. The famous Anne of Green Gables miniseries is a prime example of how staying mostly true to the novels and hiring professional cast members goes a long way towards making quality productions. Some may say that it is impossible to replicate such brilliance, as one would have to find a director and screenwriter who could pull off the same level of plot and production quality found in movies like Risen, and still remain true to original content. Not to mention the amount of quality actors and actresses that would have to be acquired, and the significant amount of time that would be dedicated to such a work of art. Then again, wouldn’t the time and money spent on making something unforgettable be worth it? Instead of wasting resources on yet another forgettable Christian movie, someone should focus on the materials already available: the vastly untapped world of Christian fiction.
Cadi Forbes has lived all her life in a Welsh immigrant settlement deep in the Appalachian Mountains, isolated from the world outside. She has lived in fear, as have the people in her settlement, and now she has a terrible secret to guard. Not only that, but she has risked trouble on her life by laying eyes on the forbidden sin eater—the cursed individual who must atone for the sins of those who die in the settlement. Seeking a way to end it all, a mysterious girl guides Cadi to listen to a stranger preach to the forest about a hope she has never heard before. She is now more curious than ever to learn about the stranger and even the identity of the cursed sin eater. But what will it cost her in the end?
Production Quality (2.5 points)
The production of The Last Sin Eater is excellent, with only minor problems. The camera work is good, as is the video quality. The only issue to raise is the inconsistent lighting in some scenes, though it could be argued as realistic. The audio quality is overall good, though the soundtrack could be a little more inspiring. There are diverse sets and the Appalachian scenery is realistic. Some of the flashback content seems a little low quality, perhaps on purpose. In the end, this production is done very well.
Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)
This is likely Michael Landon Jr’s best movie to date, but it can be credited to the writing genius of foundational Christian author Francine Rivers. Her book that inspired this movie is among her best, and Landon’s adaptation is seamless. The plot ties realistic historical events to an excellent fictional story built around believable characters. The superstition is woven wonderfully with Biblical elements. The characters are realistic and flawed, driven by true-to-life dialogue. There are twists and turns in the plot, and the end is slightly unexpected. In short, this excellent plot can be attributed to the genius authorship of Francine Rivers and to the honest adaptation of Michael Landon Jr.
Acting Quality (2.5 points)
For a cast of largely little known actors, they perform quite well. The line delivery is mostly accurate, though it seems forced at times. Sometimes the Welsh accents seem fake, but other times they do not. Despite these small issues, there are no extremely negative elements where the acting is concerned. This cast is a good example of what can be done with the proper coaching.
There are plenty of lesser and well known Christian novels that can and should be adapted for the screen. Where many movie plots are stock, there are plenty of Christian works of fiction that could be portrayed through video instead of more bland inspirational films. The Last Sin Eater is an example of what can happen when an excellent novel is adapted correctly into a movie. This film should be a blueprint for many more movies in the future.