Production values were better than Facing the Giants and much better than Flywheel. Their camera work is improving, but I'd like to see more close-ups to give a bit more variety and a closer window on the characters' reactions and emotions. Editing is improving, but I hope tightens up in future films.
Many of the actors seemed physically distant from one another, as if they didn't want to invade each other's personal space, which gave an akward feel to some of the scenes. (I understand this last point - it's something I'm learning to get over in my own acting.)
The humor helped keep things from getting too heavy. But it would have been nice if more of the humor and the secondary plotlines had intersected with the main plot. If most of the secondary plotlines had been removed, we would've had essentially the same film. Because of that, the storyline felt a bit loose with extraneous scenes.
I appreciated the visuals - Alex is learning to weave them in with less appearance of effort. The scene containing the turning point of Caleb's character was good - instead of preaching, one character asked another a question and the answer was exactly what he himself needed to hear and the point was communicated with a great visual.
The Kendricks Brothers' character development ability is improving. Jay Austin was a cad, plain and simple. Grant Taylor was basically clueless about almost everything. Caleb Holt, however, was a good guy, someone with friends, a generally nice person, but with flaws - much more like a real man.
I have a bit of criticism about the dialog.
First, all the main characters (Caleb, Catherine, Caleb's dad, and Michael) and the supporting characters whenever they had something important to say, seemed to speak with Alex Kendrick's voice. The rhythms of speech, the vocabulary, the phrasing all reminded me of interviews I've seen with Alex. While not cardboard, the main characters could have been more rounded and individual if they'd had their own individual voices. The brothers have shown that they can write characters who are individuals (many of the supporting characters sparkled with charm and individuality and had some of my favorite lines in the film) - I hope they apply this ability to their main characters in their next film.
Secondly, I think there was too much Christian jargon in the film. Our culture has lost its biblical underpinnings and words like covenant aren't as well understood as they used to be. Instead of trying to educate the audience about the meaning of the words, I think it might be better to talk about the concepts without necessarily using the words themselves.
Thirdly, everyone seemed to speak in complete sentences, even during highly-charged emotional scenes. This added to some of the stilted feel and slowed those scenes down, even while everyone was rushing through their lines. And it made the grammatical errors stand out in neon (although they always stand out in neon to me); it's easier to suspend that disbelief if the whole tenor of a character's speech makes those errors fit. Dialog needs to sound natural to the ear, even though it isn't really like real speech.
Lots of pluses and minuses, but on the whole, I think it's a good, solid film and recommend it.
- Caleb Holt's truck has a Jay Austin Motors tag on it, a reference to Flywheel.
- The kiss at the end didn't involve Erin Bethea, who played Catherine Holt, but Kirk Cameron's real-life wife, Chelsea Noble, dressed up as Catherine - notice that we never see Catherine's face while they embrace and the kiss is filmed in silhouette.
- Production budget: $500,000
- To-date gross: $8.4 million