Surprised by Oxford, rated PG-13
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.