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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Still Believe is based on the real-life love story of Christian rock artist Jeremy Camp (Riverdale's KJ Apa) and his first wife, Melissa (Britt Robertson), who gets ovarian cancer shortly after they meet. Despite her terminal diagnosis, Jeremy proposes and stands by her side as she fights the illness and their love deepens. If you're in the market for role models, look no further: This couple is as wholesome as they come (the only villain here is cancer). They don't even kiss until they first say "I love you." In fact, their love is so idealistic that the only potential concern is that it might set up unrealistic expectations for kids. While iffy content is minimal and positive faith-based messages/themes abound -- including the value of communication, courage, gratitude, and humility -- the story's focus on sickness, dying, and death could be too much for younger or more sensitive kids.
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What's the story?
When musician Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) sees Melissa Henning (Britt Robertson), it's love at first sight. But she's already in a relationship of sorts with Camp's music hero. As he tries to win her over while being respectful to his friend, the couple eventually learns that there's a much harsher obstacle in their path. The movie is adapted from the Christian music superstar's autobiography, which is also titled I STILL BELIEVE.
Is it any good?
This love story has the heart swells of The Notebook, the unexpected twists of a Nicholas Sparks novel, and the anguish of The Fault in Our Stars: The proof is your depleted tissue box. What elevates I Still Believe is that it's true. If it weren't, it would be too sappy and overwrought to accept as reality. But Camp has been telling this story at concerts for years, and the events really did happen to him and his first wife, Melissa. Most of the story takes place at the Orange County Bible college that Jeremy and Melissa attended, and there's not a shady character here: These kids do the right thing, strive to make good choices, and are all-around great role models. There is a moment in which their actions are hurtful to someone -- and you'll definitely want to talk with kids about what might have been a better way to handle it -- but it's easy to appreciate that at least their hearts were in the right place. Yes, Jeremy and Melissa may be too good to be true (and, really, who would begrudge them perfection?), but they're just the kind of people most parents would like their kids to spend time with.
This is a full-fledged faith-based film, and it's a victory for the Christian creative community. A tragic, young adult, music-centered biopic romance is a brilliant approach: I Still Believe mixes A Walk to Remember with Rocketman. And kudos to directors Andrew and Jon Erwin for having the self-restraint to not make the movie about Camp's rising-star status, instead, letting that occur subtly in the background. The film is beautifully shot -- if only we could all live in a world lit by cinematographer Kristopher Kimlin. From characters luxuriating in a sun-drenched room to a smoky haze beaming through the window, Kimlin may have invented a "God" filter. Apa and Robertson are marvelous together, and co-star Gary Sinise exhibits a natural ease. While the script could use some punching up, overall, it's on par with most romance movies. And sure, there are a couple of things that a cynic could take shots at, but considering the squeaky clean story, admirable characters, and positive approach to some of life's most difficult moments, parents may think their prayers have been answered.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their beliefs. Did I Still Believe change or affirm any of your opinions?
You could argue that this film is both a drama and a romance. Which do you think it is primarily? Does a movie have to be one genre or another? Can it be more than one thing?
Does the film play into traditional gender roles/stereotypes?
Jeremy and Melissa always mean well, but there's a moment in which they hurt someone. What might have been a better way to handle it?
- In theaters: March 13, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: March 24, 2020
- Cast: KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Abigail Cowen
- Directors: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Communication, Courage, Gratitude, Humility
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material
- Last updated: May 16, 2020
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