Amish Grace (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

When a mentally ill man tries to exact revenge on a local Amish school for the death of his daughter, the Amish community is rocked with grief. However, as the religious leadership instructs the faithful to forgive, one mother cannot let it go. Thus, she has to come to grips with what it truly means to follow God and do what He says.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With professional funding behind it, Amish Grace sports a great production with very few errors within it. Video quality, audio quality, and camera are all on par with industry standards. Sets, locations, and props are all well-constructed and well-utilized. There are no lighting or special effects concerns. The only small problems to note relate to editing, but these are not enough to prevent a high score from being awarded to this section.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

It was great that the writers used real-life source material to explore extremely difficult topics in this narrative. As such, some characters are very relatable as they struggle with hard concepts. However, some characters come off as too perfect and angelic, and there are overall too many characters to keep up with. Because of this fact, there is no clear protagonist, and many of the subplots are unfinished or disjointed. It’s unfortunate that a story based on true events lacked focus and organized purpose. Nonetheless, certain sequences of dialogue and some conversations are intriguing even if they fail to effectively move the narrative forward. Sometimes, it feels like the characters are trapped in what the story wants them to do, such as when there are pertinent points raised about the various inconsistencies of legalism in certain religious lifestyles and when these legitimate concerns are never explored again. In the end, this film was not long enough to do justice to the true accounts, and it’s possible that a miniseries format would have been more appropriate. Despite this, however, this aspect of the screenplay does deserve a modest rating for authenticity.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is the strongest element of Amish Grace. There are virtually no errors with the emotions or line delivery. It’s clear that the cast members were professionally coached, which leads to a perfect score for this section.

Conclusion

There was so much that could have been done in this movie. The true story is extremely compelling and poignant, but the potentially powerful message is not effectively communicated in Amish Grace. Nonetheless, there are still meaningful elements in this film, so it’s likely worthy your time. We just wonder what could have been.

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Champion [2017] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Sean Weathers is an up and coming dirt track racer who is obsessed with becoming the best and doing whatever it takes to do that.  He feels like he is close to becoming the top dirt track racer, but when one rival stands in his way, Sean does the unthinkable to secure his position.  However, tragedy sends Sean spiraling out of control as he begins to lose his sanity and everything he holds dear.  The only path forward is to face the pain he is trying to avoid and to seek forgiveness in the hardest places.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a student of the Kendrick film model, Judd Brannon and his team have mastered professional productions skills early on in their careers, which will be a major advantage for them down the road.  All aspects of Champion’s production are excellent—video quality is superb and camera work is very good as difficult action shots and outside scenes are executed nicely.  Audio quality is also on par and the soundtrack is reminiscent of a Kendrick soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are highly professional and appropriate, thus enhancing the film’s overall quality.  The only minor issues to raise here are some editing mistakes that cause for a small amount of viewing confusion, but this is something that will be rectified with more experience.  Overall, you can’t ask for a better production start than this.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Judd Brannon and his team have also taken a page from the Kendrick playbook when it comes to plots, as they used a non-linear plot structure with interlocking subplots.  This is mostly a good thing, yet there are a few too many unnecessary tangents that hamper with the storyline’s focus.  The characters therein are realistic and the circumstances they encounter are also believable.  However, they could use a little bit more deepening through better dialogue and more complexity.  It is clear that a lot of thought and effort was put into this plot, and there is certainly great messaging that many audiences will enjoy.  Yet this story is held back by its predictable progression and reliance on coincidences.  But in the end, like the Kendricks, Judd Brannon and his team are making the most of the inspirational genre plot structure and have great potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

This is a professional cast, and for the most part, each cast member is appropriately placed in their roles.  Andrew Cheney and Robert Amaya clearly know what they are doing.  Yet some other cast members are not very convincing in their roles and sometimes come off as disingenuous.  But overall, emotions are believable and line delivery is on point.  This is a great cast to begin with.

Conclusion

The good news for Christian film is that the bar is being raised by new film makers entering the field.  Although hardly anyone can make a freshman blockbuster like October Baby or Priceless, films like Champion certainly make for a great start in the field.  You can’t argue with this type of beginning, especially since most viewers will enjoy it.  We firmly believe this team has the ability and the resources to take that next step, as long as they add a little more complexity and creativity to their plots and make sure to avoid pesky acting errors.  Regardless, Brannon and company are well on their way to greatness and will find great success in this debut, as it is certainly worth your time to see.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points