NEW LIFE. US, 2016. Starring Jonathan Patrick Moore, James Marsters, Erin Bethea, Terry O' Quinn, Barry Corbin, Bill Cobbs, Kris Lemche, Irma P.Hall. Directed by Drew Waters. 88 minutes. Rated PG. Mild themes.
New Life has a very positive tone about it – however, while there are themes of life, there are also themes of death and grief.
Many date the popularity of faith-based films on the commercial success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. For more than a decade, many of the faith-based films have been in the top ten box-office films at the time of their release. This has encouraged many similar films, finding an audience especially in the United States with the churches and Evangelical communities. This film fits the pattern of these faith-based films.
However, there is only one brief reference to church in New Life and, nuns are seen at an orphanage at the end of the film. Which means that this film could be described as faith-based, emphasis on faith, lower case. Probably the common denominator word for all of these films is “inspirational”. The film makers believe in values, creating stories which dramatise these values, something the equivalent of cinema sermons. As might be expected, there is a cinema-going public, television and downloading public, who do not like their entertainment to be so explicit in terms of values. Obviously, New Life is not geared towards that audience.
Rather, its appeal is to those one might call the converted, audiences who like films which could be called wholesome.
The narrative is fairly straightforward, much of it easily anticipated. In many ways, the audience knows where the film is going and they willingly go with it. Two children meet when they are seven, one a little American girl, the other a little boy who has come from the United Kingdom. As the years pass, they enjoy their friendship.
The main part of the film shows their friendship, their growing in love, some tensions as Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) studies architecture and design, intending to work with his successful father, but also in partnership with a friend, driving limousines. Ava (Erin Bethea) is studying at college away from home, putting some strain on the couple meeting, phoning, he having to drive, meals together, his being busy. Ava becomes friendly with a pleasant young man, an alternative after a quarrel with Ben. She also has a French roommate in whom she confides.
But, of course they reconcile, marry, start a happy home life, he with his architecture work, she with teaching children. When one of Ben’s designs is chosen for an important project, it means that he has to spend long hours at work, travelling to New York, putting a strain on the harmony of married life.
The most important aspect of the film, however, is illness, a dread diagnosis, treatment, concern from the parents of both Ben and Ava, treatment by a stern doctor… As audiences would suspect, there is some temporary respite, the recurrence of the illness…
Ben is very much affected by Ava’s illness and death – but, while he is deeply absorbed by grief, unable to respond to life, there is a providential opportunity offered him, an opportunity to choose life, be more outgoing, be hopeful…
The makers of the film have been connected with inspirational films for many years, the director being involved as an actor, and Erin Bethea, appearing in films with such titles as Fearless Faith, God’s Compass’.
While the film will appeal to its target audience in the cinema, it will have a life on television and other media for downloading and watching films.
Heritage Films Released December 6th.