7/10 Faith based films are often on the cheesy side and tend to have lower production values due to constrained budgets. As someone who appreciates the messages of Christian films but doesn’t necessarily enjoy them because of their underwhelming track record, I can’t say that I was too jazzed to watch this. However, after two somewhat painful children’s movies, the chance to see a movie aimed more towards adults in theaters was a breath of fresh air. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying this film, being brought to tears and learning about a new, true story I had no idea about. What anchors this film so well are our two leads, K.J. Apa and Britt Robertson. I wasn’t familiar with Apa before watching this but he impressed me and Robertson continues to grow as an actress and this is her best work yet. The supporting cast has limited screen time but put in solid work, particularly the great Gary Sinise, who is a welcome addition here. The emotional aspects of the heart wrenching true story are so strong and you’d have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the film. Whereas most Christian films, like the ones made by Pure Flix, have low budgets that rarely surpass $5 million, Lionsgate was behind this and the budget was $12 million, which left no room for low production values in terms of what was needed. The film is well made from a technical stand point, even though it tells a very straightforward story. In very divided times, this film does leave you with a positive message, even if you’ll have to get through some heart break to get there. As for some of the flaws, we have seen other films cover similar subject matter before (the first film I ever cried in in theaters, “A Walk to Remember” came to mind and it didn’t help that Apa somewhat resembles Shane West) so this was really nothing new. Directors (The Erwin Brothers) even tackled similar subject matter in their last film, “I Can Only Imagine”. These brothers have shown they can tell a good story, but I would like to see them branch out for whatever their next feature film is. The film gives out some Nicholas Sparks vibes and for non-believers, you may roll your eyes at several points in the film. As a believer, I was touched by this film so even though it didn’t break any new ground and won’t be nominated for any Academy Awards, the strong cast and emotional moments the film brings will hit you right in the feels and then lift your spirits, which is something we could all use right about now.
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