Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of FIVE FEET APART

Five Feet Apart, rated PG-13
** ½

Five Feet Apart is an emotional film about two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love. The film has some content issues, but also has many positive elements. The film is directed by Justin Baldoni (My Last Days) based on the young adult novel written by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, the latter two of which also wrote the film’s screenplay.
Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson (Columbus) was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). As the film begins, she is checking into St. Grace Regional Hospital to deal with an infection, and not able to go on vacation with her friends. At St. Grace she is treated well by the compassionate nurse Barb, played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who is skilled in treating Stella and the other CF patients on the floor, including Stella’s best friend Poe, played by Moises Arias.  Stella is very well-organized, sticking to her medical routines and exercise. She maintains a “To Do” list, and loves crossing items off of it. One of the items on her list is to study about the afterlife. She has her own YouTube channel, through which she shares her journey with others. Still, she tries to maintain a positive attitude as she waits for a lung transplant, which will buy her another five years.
Will, played by Cole Sprouse (Riverdale), is another teenage CF patient in the hospital. He is entering an experimental drug program, but even if it is successful, he is not a candidate for a lung transplant. As a result, he has lost hope and is not faithful in following his treatment program. Stella encourages him to stick with his treatment. Will begins to fall for Stella, and she agrees to spend time with him, and to let him draw her as he requests, if he will follow a prescribed routine that she organizes for him.
As CF patients are vulnerable to infection, Will and Stella are not allowed to touch. In addition, they must stay at a distance of six feet apart. One of the ways they stay in touch is by Face Timing with each other while in their rooms doing their treatments. As their relationship grows, Stella decides that CF has taken enough from she and Will. As a result, she takes one foot back, and uses a five-foot pool cue to measure the distance that she and Will have to stay apart. The two fall in love, knowing that the odds are against their relationship. How will things turn out?  Will Stella get a lung transplant? Will the experimental treatment help Will?
The acting performances from the four leading characters are all solid and realistic. Themes in the film include risk, love, death and dying, responsibility, caring for others, hope, human touch and forgiveness.  Content concerns include some adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, and some language of a sexual nature. Poe is a homosexual, who talks about his multiple sexual partners and his love for his boyfriend. It seems that relationships with parents are not close and loving.  Though one of the items on Stella’s “To Do” list is the afterlife, there is no mention of God.  We only see a Hari Krishna symbol on Stella’s hospital room wall and see her meditating.
Five Feet Apart is an emotional film that has some content issues but also many positive elements.  With so many people in the audience under the age of 25, it was refreshing to see love, friendship and intimacy being portrayed without a sexual relationship.   To see Will delight in Stella because of who she is and not her appearance was great.
So… for those of you who have read the book, was the book better than the film?

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My Review of RUN THE RACE

Run the Race, rated PG
***

Run the Race is a sports-themed faith-based film, for which Tim Tebow and his brother Robby served as executive producers. The brothers appear briefly in the film. The film is directed by Chris Dowling (Priceless), who wrote the film with Jake McEntire and Jason Baumgardner (Samson).
Dave Truett, played by Evan Hofer and his brother Zach, played by Tanner Stine (Indivisible), are high school seniors in Bessemer, Florida. Their mother died from cancer two years ago.  After that, their father Mike played by Kristoffer Polaha (Get Shorty, Castle) abandoned the boys and turned to alcohol to deal with his pain. The boys are very close and deeply care for each other. They live alone in a rundown home in their depressed town, but are cared for by their godmother Nanny, played by Frances Fischer (Unforgiven, Titanic).
Dave is recovering from a bad football injury, though still experiencing occasional seizures, and is a strong Christian. We see him going to church on a few occasions, where Mario Van Peebles (Heartbreak Ridge), portrays Pastor Baker.
Zach is a popular and good-looking All-State running back on the football team.  He is hoping for a college scholarship to the University of Florida (where Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy and was a two-time national champion), and take Dave with him to get out of Bessemer. Former Tennessee Titans star Eddie George plays a small role as a recruiter from the University of Florida. Continue reading


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My Review of FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

Fighting with My Family, rated PG-13
***

Fighting with My Family is based on the true story of professional wrestler Saraya “Paige” Bevis and her family from England. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Jumanji) was in England filming a movie when he saw a documentary about Paige and her family on television a few years ago. He was attracted to the “underdog” aspect of the story, and contracted Emmy winner Stephen Merchant (Lip Sync Battle, The Office, The Ricky Gervais Show) about making a full-length feature film about the family.  Merchant wrote and directed the film, as well as playing a small role.  Johnson served as executive producer and also appears in a few scenes as himself. Continue reading


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My Review of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Rated R
** ½

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is now available on home video, and is based on the true story of New York writer Lee Israel; it’s driven by strong acting performances by the two lead characters. The film has received three Oscar nominations, but does have some content concerns.
The film is directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl). It is written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty who both received Oscar nominations for the film, which is based on the 2008 book Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel, who died in 2014.
As the film begins in 1991, Lee, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, Bridesmaids), is drinking at her desk at work and after two younger women walk by and make a derisive comment to her, she becomes verbally abusive to co-workers and her boss. She is promptly fired. Her life is a mess. She is now without a job, three months behind on her rent, and can’t get her cat the treatment it needs because she has an overdue balance at the veterinarian’s office which she can’t pay. She is an author of biographies that don’t sell, notably of Fanny Brice. Marjorie, her literary agent, played by Golden Globe nominee Jane Curtin (Kate and Allie, Saturday Night Live), won’t even return her calls. When Lee attends a party that Marjorie is hosting just so that she could talk to her, Lee ends up stealing another party goer’s coat on the way out.   Yep, she’s a real charmer. Continue reading


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My Review of THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD

They Shall Not Grow Old, rated R
****

They Shall Not Grow Old is an amazing documentary made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), which ended the fighting in World War I. The film is directed by three-time Oscar winner Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) who did not take a fee for the making of the film. Jackson dedicated the film to his grandfather who fought, and was injured, in the war.
The theatre presentation of the film begins with Jackson making a few brief comments to the audience, telling them that he will be back after the ending credits to talk about how the film was made. I would highly recommend you stay for that portion of the presentation as it added a lot to the entire experience as he talks about the film’s scope, approach, sound, colorization, music and purpose.
In the film, Jackson focuses on the life of the ordinary British foot soldier. He chose not to use a narrator, as is common for a documentary, but instead to use the actual voices of British soldiers who took part in the war from decades old BBC recordings of war veterans recounting their actual experiences in the trenches on the Western Front. Continue reading


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My Review of FREE SOLO

Free Solo, rated PG-13
****

Free Solo is an Oscar nominated documentary about professional adventure rock climber Alex Honnold, who successfully climbed the imposing, nearly vertical 3,200-foot granite formation El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on June 3, 2017. Incredibly, Honnold climbs the imposing wall without any climbing equipment (ropes, etc.), which is known as free soloing. The film is directed by Jimmy Chin (Meru) and wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhely (Meru), who along with the film’s producers Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill, received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature for the film.
Honnold, now 33 years old, tells us that he is a loner and has lived in a van for nine years. We see a family photo of him climbing a wall, and hear that he started at a climbing gym at the age of 5. His parents divorced during his first year of college and he dropped out after that year. He comes across as driven, relationally distant, and yet likeable. Alex has had girlfriends, but honestly states that he will always choose climbing over girls. In this film, we meet a girlfriend, the likeable Sanni McCandless, who meets Alex at a book signing. (McCandless is now a “transition coach for outdoor-focused individuals who want to create more tailored, intentional lifestyles and find agency in their own lives”). In the film, Alex is never able to give Sanni what she truly needs in a healthy relationship – her expectations of him are met with disappointment. Maybe because growing up he never heard the world “love” nor was he ever hugged. Continue reading


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My Review of THE WIFE

The Wife, rated R
***

The Wife is a well-acted film featuring an Oscar nominated performance by Glenn Close that is marred by a large amount of adult language. The film is directed by Bjorn Runge and written by three-time Emmy winner Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom), based on the novel The Wife by Meg Wolitzer.
The film takes place in 1992. Joseph Castleman, played by Golden Globe nominee Jonathan Pryce (Barbarians at the Gate), can’t sleep as he anticipates a call he may get notifying him that he has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Continue reading