Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Movie Review, Courtesy of Fish Flix

Hello, my lovely readers! It's been a long while since I've done any reviewing. Between college, work, internships, and extracurriculars, I haven't had the time to make any reviewing commitments.

Earlier this year, though, I got an email from a representative of FishFlix.com asking if I would review a film they'd send me. I picked a genre, they mailed me a DVD, and this week I finally had the time to put together my honest review. I might be a bit rusty at the whole critiquing thing, but I tried. Here we go!

About the Movie:

Eternal Salvation by Eternal Salvation Productions, LLC

FishFlix Listing
IMDb Page
Movie Website

Jonathan Wright (Bradley Snedeker) has it all, a prestigious job, incredibly beautiful wife Amy (Jessica Morris), gorgeous 7-year-old daughter Megan (Isabella Cuda) and countless friends.  Having recently been appointed to Sr. Vice President of business relations for a well-established investment banking firm, Jonathan believes he is on the fast-track to reaching the apex of his career.  He and his team have been assigned a new client’s billion dollar account.

In the prime of his life, Jonathan suffers a life threatening brain aneurysm that leaves him comatose.  After regaining consciousness, he begins the grueling task of rebuilding his life.  During this difficult time, he is determined to find the true meaning of life.

He realizes that everything he thought was important in life is just vanity.  This new revelation takes a toll on his professional life and his entire world begins to crumble around him.  He is ostracized by his friends.  The only person who doesn’t question Jonathan’s quest for truth is his colleague, Paul Jenkins (Darren Dupree Washington), a devoted Christian.

Paul takes Jonathan under his wing to mentor him spiritually.  During this spiritual journey, Jonathan is forced to confront the sins of his past before discovering the truth that waits in his future.

My Thoughts:

I tried not to give away too much, but this review might be a bit spoilery. Sorry.

This movie ricochets between a refreshing new style of Christian film and a potluck of typical Christian cliches. I'm not really sure what to make of it.



For example, this movie starts out whitewashed like any average Christian movie, but when the Christian characters show up, none of them are white. The Bible study group is mostly Asian with at least one Middle Eastern man, the pastor is Asian, and the central Christian character who befriends the main character is African-American. It was refreshing, even if the characters with the most screen time and biggest roles were still overwhelmingly white, to see this shift -- especially in the Christian industry where the Christians are the obvious 'good guys' and everyone else are the 'bad guys' in need of changing. Points for diversity.

Buuuut just because this movie is progressive when it comes to American Christian racial representation, it seriously fails on another important level: there are only four female characters in the entire movie, and they're all overshadowed by the men to varying degrees. There are three adults, all young hot chicks, and the main character's daughter. To the movie's credit, one of the three adult women isn't white. Ironically, this film does technically pass the Bechdel test: Jonathan's and Paul's wives have a brief exchange about dessert. And Jonathan's relationship with his wife was healthier and received more screen time than in other Christian films. As a woman watching this movie, though, I still felt very conspicuously left out.

this dessert scene passes the bechdel test
The relationships between characters are this movie's strongest point. The cast is surprisingly star-studded; many of the actors have been in shows including Agents of Shield, Revenge, and CSI:Miami. While the dialogue in several places felt stilted, the acting flowed well. The friendship between Paul the "Jesus freak" and Jonathan develops naturally and is my favorite part of the movie. Jonathan's relationship with his wife, Amy, was strong. He often sought her advice, and they got along well. There was one scene where he yells at Amy, but when she pushes back (metaphorically), he tells her to calm down and give him space. Obviously, that did not sit well with me at all. Other than that exchange, though, it's largely a very positive relationship -- even when one of them becomes a Christian while the other doesn't. You don't see that portrayed this realistically in most Christian movies. There was a lot of secret-keeping between characters that didn't make sense to me, but that wasn't a big deal, just annoying.

While the characters drove the movie, sometimes their motivations weren't clear and their decisions were made too hastily. Certain important character developments seemed to occur out of nowhere, which was frustrating. I did like the villain's development, though. He's the kind of guy you love to hate and just wish you could wring his neck and make him regret his decisions. Of course, he's also the kind of guy who shows no remorse for his actions and gives an evil grin as he gets away with one move after another. It was infuriating, but it was good writing -- probably the best character development in the movie.

the main character Jonathan with his new bestie Paul
The pacing didn't work well, especially in the beginning. I struggled to follow the story arc or the plot points, which as a writer is important. Most of the Christian cliches occur in the beginning, too, so I mostly just hated the first several minutes of the film. The movie starts with a dramatic hospital scene that would the perfect opening -- drama, intrigue, action, all the questions about how we got here -- if it weren't for the distracting voiceover that tells us too much up front. And yes, there is a heaven scene -- Jonathan sees God in heaven, who is a giant white dude in white robes on a white throne in a white room with glowing white light in place of a face, and God tells Jonathan to follow Him and He'll give him the desires of his heart.

The heaven scene was too typical, cliche, literal, etc. for me, and definitely too much prosperity gospel in that message. The prosperity gospel standard story gets some major twists later in the movie -- a lot of events that would probably go magically well for Jonathan in a typical Christian movie took unexpected turns. But his family lives in a house bigger than I've ever set foot in, and every twist is eventually resolved exactly to his liking. It's a great ending for him, but not realistic and sort of a problematic message to send.

Jonathan and Amy
Some of the plot points were very typical of a Christian movie and didn't always work with the story. Jonathan's baptism and some of his conversations about salvation and baptism theology were too Christianese and felt like they were inserted rather than natural progressions in the story. There was a bit involving religious persecution in the workplace that seemed completely unrealistic and probably illegal in the real world. Later I realized it was supposed to be part of the villain's development, but it felt more like a dig at perceived "religious persecution" in America. There were several other scenes that felt off; basically any conversation about theology or spirituality was too detailed for a movie and clearly pushed a highly specific message. I guess that should be expected from a Christian film, but I would've preferred more believable conversations; the writers could provide more theological information on the movie's website instead of in the dialogue.

In conclusion:

I loved Jonathan and Paul. I liked Jonathan and Amy. The pacing was too fast and the Christian scenes were awkward, but the villain was developed well and contributed a lot to the story. This movie sorely lacks in female characters, but it does well in the racial diversity category. In all, I'd give it around three stars. Whether or not I'd recommend it really depends on who's asking.

About FishFlix:

FishFlix.com is one of the top destinations on the web for Christian and Family Friendly DVDs. Their selection carries everything from apologetics to Bible stories to classic Christian romances. They've got something for every Christian customer, whether you're Catholic and looking for a family film or a Baptist couple seeking a romantic movie night in. FishFlix offers the classics such as When Calls the Heart alongside new hits like God's Not Dead.

I received a free copy of this DVD from Fish Flix in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. I received no further compensation for this post. All photos are borrowed from the movie's website, linked above.

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