Not too long ago, I had the privilege of being given a private screening of an upcoming faith-based movie, "Where Hope Grows." My wife, Cherith, and I were very moved and very impressed. I will admit to being a "Christian Movie" skeptic. I have been burned so many times by movies that were written and produced by Christian companies. You know what I am talking about - cheesy plot lines, cheesier acting, low-budget production, and over-the-top religious themes that are meant to please a Christian-Only audience. Well, "Where Hope Grows" is NOT that kind of movie.
The movie centers around a washed-up alcoholic named Cal. Although he had a stint as a Major League Baseball pitcher, Cal's alcoholism has all but destroyed his life and relationships. Through the turmoil of Cal's relationship with his daughter, the audience sees the destructive power of alcohol upon everything the addict holds dear. It is through an unlikely friendship with a boy nicknamed "Produce" that begins to turn Cal's life (and heart) around.
There are several things I LOVED about this movie:
1) The acting and production is stellar. There was never a moment in the movie where I thought, "Man, I wish this movie was a little more on par with today's production standards." It was done well and includes some of today's top-notch actors.
2) The emotions are raw and real. You can't help but have your heart ache for the pain that Cal is going through with his family and career.
3) The hero is a man with Down's Syndrome. "Produce" is played by David DeSanctis, who I had the privilege of meeting personally in January (see pic below). David played the character beautifully. The audience falls in love with "Produce" as they watch his joy, hope, and positivity influence Cal's hardened hart. I believe this movie will help the world see that people who have mental disabilities can teach us an awful lot! They are VERY special people that make our world brighter!
There are a couple of cautions with this movie:
1) It is a PG-13 movie. While it has a phenomenal faith message, the movie does not shy away from the adult themes that are presented. The real horrors of alcoholism are depicted. There is also a scene of sexual assault (modestly done, no nudity, no actual visual of the assault) that will be highly disturbing to young viewers. I would not recommend this movie for any children below the age of 13.
2) It is not a "Christian" movie. The movie has faith interwoven throughout. However, there is not a strong, straight-forward Gospel message. While it is obvious that "Produce" is a Christian and that he attends church (there is even a church scene with a preacher and a choir), Jesus and salvation are not presented. Now, this is not necessarily a knock on the movie. I understand why they took this approach. However, if you are looking for a movie a la "Courageous" or "God's Not Dead" that is more of a Christian Pep Rally, then this movie is not necessarily going to deliver that for you. Personally, I think taking this approach is going to make this movie much more approachable for theaters and casual movie goers. For that reason, I am glad they did.
I highly recommend this movie for every adult! It is also appropriate as a Family film for children 13 and over. It releases nationwide on May 15th. Take some friends! Invite your neighbors! Check out the trailer: