Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

My Review of Surprised by Oxford

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Surprised by Oxford, rated PG-13
** ½

This film, based on the 2013 book Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, is the true story of Caro Drake, a young American woman who earns a scholarship to the University of Oxford for her postgraduate studies. Her goal is to earn her PhD in Romantic-era literature. Ryan Whitaker (son of the Christian music artist Michael W. Smith) directs the film. The film opened with a brief interview with the author (who appears in the film), and author and podcaster Annie Downs.
Caro, played by Rose Reid, has grown up without any religious faith. Her Mom is a Roman Catholic, and her father was arrested by the FBI when she was only eight. Early on at Oxford while with her friends, she meets Kent Weber, a Christian, played by Ruairi O’Connor, and misinterprets a message she sees pop up on his phone. After that, she wants nothing to do with him, though he continues to pursue a friendship with her. She has unmet longings and eventually agrees to his request to read C.S. Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy; we then see their relationship budding.  But between the growing relationship and her contemplation of the Christian faith, she is distracted from her studies and faces the possible loss of her scholarship. She dives back into her studies, but wisely accepts the counsel of Provost Regina Knight, played by Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey).
The film includes beautiful scenery of Oxford and the Cotwolds, both of which we visited in 2019. It is part love story and part Christian conversion story, though the film never really fleshes out her actual conversion. Most of the film moves along slowly, but then the film ends abruptly. It is well made and acted. Caro’s story has been compared to C.S. Lewis’ famous conversion nearly a century ago at Oxford. The film includes some PG-13 adult language and talk about sex.
The film was in the theaters for just two days. Hopefully it will be available on streaming soon.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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