Wednesday, February 28, 2018

FAITH ON TRIAL: MY DADDY IS IN HEAVEN..... A MOVIE REVIEW

There is a defining moment in every person’s life, where we come to a fork in the road. We can go the cute (an inaccurate) cliché route and “take it” or like most people under duress, the fork in the road can lead to despair. That moment came to a real person called Rebecca Crownover (then called Becca Smith) when she lost her husband Adam due to an ATV accident. The 2009 accident occurred late at night at her farm’s Annual July 4th Celebration, in the hard, tough Texas countryside.  Adam Smith's untimely death left Becca with their very young daughter, Acie, a farm and a whole lot of grief.

“My Daddy is in Heaven is a new movie created out of this troubled journey of Faith (and lack of) that came about as a result of this incident. The movie is produced by The Nasser Group. It is set for release on March 13, 2018, and based on a children’s book (published in 2012) by Rebecca Crownover. The entire adaptation of the book, as well as the human and other circumstances surrounding this life-changing personal trauma, is handled with delicate finesse by the movie producers and scriptwriters. If you love good scripting, here is one for you. Due to the tragedy in Becca’s life before the sudden loss of husband Adam, coming just a few years earlier, in the accidental train death of Adam’s father, it would take expert care and handling of such a delicate situation walk the fine line of telling the facts of such a huge family loss, while at the same time staying true to the message. If there is one thing you can see developing after Becca (Jenn Gotzon) loses the battle on her knees praying for Adam's life, is that there has to be more coming in this film, to which someone in the same situation can relate.

The casting choices were well done, as evidenced by the characters progressively becoming more intense and believable as the movie went on. Jenn Gotzon (God's Country, God's Not Dead 2, Doonby and more ) played the part of Rebecca (as Becca Smith) with so much emotion, you could tell she was all in, as far as being in character was concerned. Her counterpart was Corbin Bensen (L.A. Law, Major League II, and others), who played her old-school, hard-knuckled yet easy-going father. Bensen is now a staple in a lot of Christian or Faith-based movies.

According to the author of the book, on which this movie is based, she (Rebecca Crownover) published it to assist children in handling their grief, when there is a traumatic loss of a parent or a loved one very close. Over the years, the book has, but the author made a statement which was more a result or fruit of her trials. She said it is about “the ultimate message of peace and hope…..even though Acie’s dad left us early, God was not mean to us. He just had another plan for our lives”. By itself, all of this is true. However, what this new movie does is take the grieving person through a process, which is not easy at all to go through, at all. It had to be so, in order that the full story was told, with all its warts and bumps.  

Jenn Gotzon’s character, Becca Smith (Rebecca Crownover) has one major crisis of Faith in God, after another, through much of the movie, until she comes to a place where the defining moment presented itself. After the death of Adam, armed with the realization that God had an entirely different plan than letting her husband live, Becca leaves her farm life and heads for the city to live with her long-lost best friend, June. June had shown up, by divine appointment earlier, but what happened with the both of these ladies trying to “live the good life” is always a recipe for disaster.

My guess is that a lot of people will see themselves in these two women, who spend a lot of time out on the town, drinking a variety of high-proof alcohol drinks – ALL AT ONCE. Eventually, these multiple drinking sprees resulted in something which could have ended with disastrous consequences. Becca escapes and runs directly into the moment where she has to confront the truth. Seeing a homeless man with a sign, which says “Show God’s Mercy”. This statement sets Becca (Jenn Gotzon) off and every ounce of hatred, disappointment and more she felt because God took her young husband away, came flying out. She not only blasphemes the Lord and insults the panhandler but accidentally strikes a patrolman, who heard the ruckus and appeared on the scene.

This naturally ends with Becca Smith in handcuffs, in front of the police lieutenant who, – and remember this is a true story – is a friend of her father’s. In fact, the cop was also at Becca’s wedding. He instinctively senses she has basically hit rock bottom in just about every facet of her life and mercifully lets her go.

After she realizes this, most likely due to her upbringing on a family farm, as a Sunday school teacher, Becca finally decides to return to her little daughter, her dad and her life on the farm. Only this time, she is taking the seemingly flaky best friend June with her. On the long bus trip back to her country farm, from the wild city life, an incident on the bus, where a young man overdosed on an opioid (a modern menace).

On that bus is a young musician, played the TC Stallings, the lead actor of the very popular movie “WAR ROOM”. The Stallings character realizes the young man is about to pass away and proceeds to share the most crucial parts of the gospel with him, in order that he may literally have a deathbed conversion. Fortunately (for him), the young man agrees, prompting  (Stallings) to lead all the passengers on the bus, in the Lord’s prayer. June has been watching all of this and it has such a profound effect on her, that she is not far from surrendering her life to Jesus Christ. 

The principals were wonderful in this movie and  (Acie) was fabulous, indeed.  Her acting was mature beyond her years. There were a few lighthearted moments, but the serious message of the perseverance through tragedy got through loud clear. 

Here is where I think this fast-moving family movie can be of tremendous value to people from all walks of life.  There is no one alive who has not had tragedy in their lives. The thing is when that defining moment comes where folks, in the depths of pain and despair,  are faced two choices, which choice is made. Many react like Becca Smith in “My Daddy is in Heaven”, when she turned her back temporarily on God. Unfortunately, most never come back. Maybe this movie will help put some perspective on tragedy when Faith comes under fire.  There is hope if we are open to it seeing the entire picture. Hope can only be found in God.

VERDICT: solid movie; great photography; fast-moving dialogue and good casting.
FIVE STARS.
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