Mixed feelings best describes my reaction to Lifemark, which hits theatres today. (In Canada It can be seen in select Cineplex & Landmark Theatres. In the US it will be shown on about 1,400 screens, though in Canada you might have to look to find it.),
I suspect that might be because of the difference in the demographics between the two countries, with Americans being more tolerant of films with a faith aspect.
Lifemark is the latest effort from the Kendrick Brothers, whose movie history has been well documented elsewhere, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say, the filmmakers themselves are an inspiring story and I’m always up to sample their latest effort. Working with lower budgets than those of the big studios, they tell stories that touch the heart.
Given that, is it fair to compare Lifemark to a 100 million dollar blockbuster? I think so. The film is competing for the same entertainment dollar. Theatre-goers want to be entertained.
These days though, it seems film budgets are bloated by special effects costs. All that mind-numbing flash and bang usually bores me. Special effects can mask deficiencies in plot or acting. A simple story, well told, well acted and filmed don’t need to have an astronomical cost. I started this movie pre-disposed to like it, becasue I knew the emphasis would be on telling a story.
Yet, as Lifemark unfolded, I had an uneasy feeling that the movie was somehow missing the mark. And I couldn’t quite figure out what it was that made me feel that way.
The central theme, identity and family is one that is pretty universal. We all at some point in our lives wonder about who we are and our place in this world. And for David Scotton, given his background, you would expect the questions to be magnified.
When David was born his birth mother gave him up for adoption. She re-enters his life shortly after his eighteenth birthday, stirrring up emotions in not only David but his adoptive parents. How does he feel, how do they feel, should he see his birth mother, does he want to know her story?
I think it was the loose ends of the plot that caused my uneasiness. The focus on wrestling as the film opened took us down a side trail away from the theme. At first I thought it might be a sports movie.
Frustrating also was the lack of backstory for some of the characters. There are a few that seemed peripheral that should have been fleshed out in more detail.
And I think that is where my unsettledeness comes in. This is a story that could have been so much more, that could have been told better. Opportunities missed. Maybe a budget thing, maybe just a lack of vision.
Which doesn’t really distract from the story, which I suspect will be enough to generate some nasty reviews. After all, it isn’t politically correct these days to choose adoption over abortion. I have a suspicion that discussion of that topic will overshadow any comments about the plot or the acting.
Both of which were acceptable. None of the actors will win an Oscar for their performance, but none embarrassed themselves either. Indeed, Justin Sterner, who play’s David’s best friend, was a great comic foil – though if my son had a friend like that I might consider strangling him.
Being a Kendrick Brothers film, you know this is a Christian venture, but faith isn’t foremost in the movie. The film is accessible to people of all faiths or no faith. Christianity is an undercurrent, the glue that holds the people together, but the movie isn’t preachy. Turns out it is a true story, based on a documentary that was made a few years ago.
If you are looking for an alternative to the latest super-hero smashup, Lifemark, even with its deficiencies, is worthy of your consideration.