Why the Smallbone Brothers Should Make Redeeming Love a Film

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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 Priceless has 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 Redeeming Love. 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. 

 

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Priceless [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

James never intended to become a bad man, but he slowly slipped into a destructive lifestyle after his wife tragically died.  After losing custody of his daughter and being convicted of crime, James finds himself desperate for cash.  He agrees to help a ‘buddy’ out by hauling unknown cargo across the country to an unknown buyer, no questions asked.  But just before he reaches his destination, curiosity gets the best of him and he breaks the lock to see what is inside the box truck he has been driving for days.  Inside, he finds two young women in squalid condition and is faced with the ultimate moral choice: does he complete the job for the cash or does he break protocol and face consequences?

 

Production Quality (3 points)

It is refreshing and encouraging that there are new Christian film makers coming onto the scene every year to contribute to a growing army of creative minds ready to redeem the field once and for all.  2016 has been a year for many film makers to try to make their mark, but Priceless stands alone from them all, starting with exquisite production quality.  Shot on location (there’s a concept!) with professional camera work and angles, Priceless has all the goods.  Video quality is excellent, including diverse lighting done right.  Audio quality is flawless and the original soundtrack is an epic breath of fresh air.  Sets and locations are extremely realistic; outdoor scenes are executed well.  There are no editing problems.  There are few times we have an opportunity to say this: there are no production errors in this film.  The production is easily one of the best for a rookie effort.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Unlike the failed Caged No More, which portrays human trafficking in a far-off location away from ‘safe’ America, Priceless shoves the issue in your face—in the middle of small town America and American suburbia.  Though the beginning sequence is a bit rushed and the narration is heavy-handed, there are no errors beyond this.  The flawed character arcs are inspiring; we really feel like we can relate to the struggles of the characters.  Dialogue is effective in building the excellent storyline, as is the use of flashbacks.  The plot itself is very gritty and down to earth; there are no unbelievable elements or plot holes.  The Christian message is neither in-your-face nor muted, but is presented tastefully.  Edgy elements are handled properly.  The creators did all they could do with this plot, including a slight plot twist and an appropriate ending.  In short, except for some minor rookie errors, this is a plot to be proud of.  It not only presents the human trafficking problem to the audience in a realistic way, but it does so with authentic characters and an engaging storyline.  We can’t wait to see more from the Smallbones.

Acting Quality (3 points)

Taking a page from the Kendrick\Erwin playbook, the Smallbone team employed acting coaching and it paid off.  Though the cast is small, they carry the movie well.  In Priceless, Joel Smallbone finally became vindicated for past uninspiring performances that were likely the consequence of poor leadership in those films.  Bianca Santos is a very promising actress for the future.  Emotions are very believable and line delivery is on point.  Costuming is appropriate.  In short, there are no errors here.

Conclusion

Priceless receives an x-factor point for presenting a highly important issue in an exquisite manner.  While watching this film, I was reminded that this is why we do what we do.  Christian film makers who care use their God-given talents to create movies that make a difference in the culture.  Similarly, we feel God has called us to critique the Christian creative so that hopefully the field will improve as a whole.  Enslaved girls is why we do this.  Lost souls is why we do this.  Mobilizing activism is why we do this.  Making a difference is why we do this.  Under such films as Priceless (and other Hall of Fame films) can we unite for a common cause and no longer remember the days of failed low-quality Christian movies.  Budding film makers like Ben Smallbone and his team are lighting the way and giving us hope for a new day in Christian film.  Since this is how he has debuted, we cannot wait to see what he has to offer next.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points