Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Forever My Girl, rated PG
** ½

Newly out on video, Forever My Girl, based on the novel by Heidi McLaughlin, is a well-acted film that has several positive messages, but is a bit predictable. The film is directed and written by Bethany Ashton Wolf.
The film is set in St. Augustine, Louisiana, referred to by the locals as just “Saint”, not far from New Orleans. The film begins on the wedding day of Josie, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Happy Death Day) and Liam Page, a pastor’s son and country music singer, played by Alex Roe (The Fifth Wave).

Josie is very excited about getting married to her high school sweetheart, but then every bride’s nightmare happens – she is left at the altar by Liam.
She hears nothing from Liam over the next eight years as Liam travels the world as a country music superstar, playing to huge arenas of adoring fans. We hear some of his music in the film. We see him drinking a lot, being rude to his manager, and having one-night stands with groupies.
Not only has Liam left Josie and St. Augustine behind, but he has had no contact with his father, Pastor Brian played by Emmy nominee John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C, The Good Wife), even when his father pursued him. It’s obvious that Liam has hurt in his life, but we don’t know what it is. It is only after Liam hears about the tragic death of his best friend from high school who was to have been one of his groomsmen, being killed by a drunk driver, that he returns to his home town for the funeral.
Josie eventually moved on and bought a nice little flower shop in town. Life is going fine for her and her seven-year old daughter Billy, played by the delightful Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant-Man), until Liam unexpectedly shows up for the funeral. He badly hurt Josie, and to say he is greeted with a cool breeze by Josie, her brother and the entire community, is an understatement. But things get complicated when Liam realizes that Billy is actually his daughter.  Josie tells him that she didn’t find out that she was pregnant until after the date of their planned wedding.
This is when the film gets interesting. Can Josie forgive Liam for hurting her so badly, especially when he never explained why he stood her up at the altar? And how do things change between the two now that he knows that they have a daughter?

The film has a solid supporting cast (Josie’s brother, Liam’s manager and his publicist), and country music star Travis Tritt, who appears in a cameo as Walt, a singer in a bar.
Content concerns involve sexual activity (nothing explicit is shown) and excessive drinking.
Themes include forgiveness, fatherhood, second chances, and the return of a prodigal son.
Forever My Girl is a well-acted PG-rated romance with significant Christian content and several positive themes, even if it is a bit predictable.

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Let There Be Light, rated PG-13
** ½

Let There Be Light is a well-made film about what happens to the world’s best-known atheist when he has a near-death experience. The film is directed by Kevin Sorbo (God’s Not Dead, Soul Surfer, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) in his directorial debut. Sorbo writes the film with Dan Gordon (The Hurricane), and also stars as Dr. Sol Harkens, the world’s best-known atheist.
As the film opens, we see Harkens debating a Christian apologist about the existence of God. It’s less of a debate than it is an attack on Christianity before a large audience sympathetic to Harkens. Sol is there primarily to promote his latest book Aborting God: The Reasoned Choice, and in his tirade his uses the death of his young son Davey from cancer to show that God is neither good nor powerful, and that there is no existence past this world. Instead, his philosophy is just to “Party on!”.  The debate works well to sell books, much to the pleasure of his agent Norm, played by Daniel Roebuck (Getting Grace) and publicist Tracee, played by Donielle Artest.
Sol is divorced from Katy, played by real-life wife Sam Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Andromeda). They have two sons, Gus and Conner, also played by real-life sons Braeden and Shane Sorbo. Katy, Gus and Conner are Christians. Despite his success, Sol is unhappy, lonely and not a very good father to Gus and Conner. Despite his hostility to their faith, Katy has never stopped praying for Sol.
We see Sol, who is an alcoholic, drinking extensively at a party to celebrate the release of his book. He is there with Venessa, a Russian bikini model played by Olivia Fox. On the way home from the party, Sol, driving drunk, is in a bad accident. As a result of the accident, Sol actually dies clinically for four minutes. During that time, he sees a bright light, and is reunited (in what could be perceived as Heaven) with his beloved son Davey, played by Ethan Jones. Davey tells his father that he has to go back, it’s not his time yet. He also gives him a message “Let there be light”.
This is a major problem for the world’s best-known atheist who has told his audience that there is nothing past this world, so you might as well “Party on!” The film addresses how Sol deals with what he has seen and the message that he has been given by Davey. We see how his agent and publicist respond, as well as his ex-wife and children.
Michael Franzese portrays Katy’s pastor Vinny. Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who also serves as Executive Producer, stars as himself.  Country music artist Travis Tritt plays Dr. Corey and Dionne Warwick portrays herself.
The film, with a budget of just three million dollars, was well-made, with the acting, writing and production better than most faith-based films. Despite this, discerning viewers will have some concerns with the film’s content. We see Sol, an outspoken atheist, during his near-death experience seeing a bright light and meeting his son Davey in what appears to be Heaven and receiving a message from him. This contrasts to the Apostle Paul who also saw a bright light and received a message directly from Jesus. Sol sees neither God nor Jesus. Also, the film perhaps moves too quickly in showing the changes that take place in Sol’s life. The film could have shown the world’s best-known atheist struggling more. The film could have also portrayed the gospel more clearly:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Despite these concerns Let There Be Light is a positive alternative to many of the current films in the theatres these days, such as Red Sparrow and A Wrinkle in Time.  It is emotional, well-made and features positive messages.