Katie Lapp’s life is about to change. As a young Amish woman, she is coming of age and has been chosen by Hickory Hollow’s bishop to be his wife in order to raise his two children following the death of his wife. But Katie is struggling with her Amish identity and wonders if there is another life for her outside of Lancaster County, as she secretly plays non-Amish music on her worldly guitar. She also misses her true love, Daniel Fisher, after his tragic death. What’s more, a mysterious Englisher woman has been asking around Lancaster County for Katie by name. Everything comes to a head as Katie finally must choose between the life she has grown up in and the life she wants to find outside of Hickory Hollow.
Production Quality (2 points)
The Shunning has all the typical marks of a Michael Landon Jr.\Brian Bird production: good video quality, professional camera work, vanilla editing, a clichéd setting and surroundings, and unrealistic costuming. Landon Jr. and Bird have always known how to invest in quality camera work and video quality, but they unfortunately let too many other things fall by the wayside. This plot is sleepy enough as it is, but the editing does nothing to help this fact. Slow transitions between scenes and long fadeouts tempt the viewer to fast forward. There are also too many scenery sequences that could have been used instead to build characters. Also, it’s really hard to know if the portrayal of the Amish in this film is realistic or if it’s embellished. Yet there are enough positive elements to lift this production about average status, but we await the day when the Landon Jr.\Bird team finally goes all the way, as they clearly have the means to do.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Adapted from Beverly Lewis’ popular novel by the same name, The Shunning just carries the entire identity of a stereotypical Amish plot. As previously mentioned, some of the elements are likely realistic, but we can’t help but think that some real Amish people would feel offended by some of the portrayals. There is little meaningful plot content as this film is obviously just setting up for the second installment of the trilogy. Character development is shallow and dialogue is vanilla. If so much time was going to be spent on preparing for the next film, it was an absolute must for characters to be deep and meaningful by the time the credits rolled. Unfortunately, this did not happen. On the brighter side, the use of flashbacks in this film are effective and creative. The subplot overlay is intriguing and breathes new life into the film about halfway through. Overall, while there are some interesting points, this plot really doesn’t hold the attention and it’s difficult to know what audience this movie would draw interest from. As we’ve mentioned in the past, Landon Jr. specializes in bringing Christian novels to the big screen, but too often, the books are better than the movies.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
With obviously practiced ‘Amish’ accents, dialogue from the cast members is often hard to understand without captioning. Yet the acting is not terrible and is sometimes quite good. Emotions are sometimes over the top and other times realistic. It’s not that this movie was cast wrong—they are not coached good enough. Therefore, this is just another average contribution to the movie.
The Shunning is one of those movies that, when analyzed, is really not that bad, but it carries an intangible air to it that makes it extremely forgettable. Landon Jr. and Bird have the ability and potential to make a huge difference in the Christian\inspirational movie field, but they constantly settle for second best. There are plenty of other more meaningful, creative, and complex Christian novels that desperately need to be made into screenplays, and Landon Jr. and company have demonstrated the willingness and ability to do this. What Christian film needs is game changers, not the status quo keepers.
Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points