Like many female Christians, I recently got sucked into Francine Rivers best-selling novel, Redeeming Love. Redeeming Love. The book made me teary eyed and gave my sister the chills, we were excited about seeing this film!
Here is the Goodreads Summary of our treasured Redeeming Love book: “California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go. A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.“
Spoiler Warning – My review WILL reveal the plot of the book and movie, exit now if you want to remain surprised. Many thanks to Universal for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.
I have added a parental guide at the bottom if you want to quickly scroll down.
The storyline of the book is for mature audiences, as the main character was sold into being a prostitute and there are very heavy themes to build a background of our main character. Through her early life, we understand why she distrusts men, why she’s so bitter, why her view of sex is skewed, and why her heart is hardened to the Lord. The author introduces us to a man named Michael, and unlike a typical romance story, Michael may have been able to rescue her from her environment, but he’s not her savior. On her own, Angel eventually accepts Christ into her life, and finds her way back to Michael.
Moving away from explaining the book, the film adaption is directed by DJ Caruso and supporting cast includes Eric Dane, Nina Dobrev, and Famke Janssen and describes the film as a “love story”, with the main character having “survived through hatred and self-loathing until she meets Michael Hosea and discovers there is no brokenness that love can’t heal”. I thought it was curious how they worded the summary compared to the book’s description, but nonetheless was so excited to watch the trailer when it first came out!
In all honestly, there were two things I was nervous about before screening this film. The first reason being that in the book, there is a lot of internal dialogue…a lot of internal wrestling with inner struggles, conversations with God, etc. I was afraid that the book intent would be lost. I was also afraid that this movie would end up being too racy for a Christian movie. On both accounts, I realized I was right after thirty minutes of watching.
- The author, Francine Rivers, made claims that the themes of the book are in this movie…which is technically accurate. What should be noted is that the theme of Christianity, which made the book what it was, ended up being minimized. A lot. I think it could be characterized as “spiritual, not religious” (further explained in points below).
- The character growth of all the characters was reduced, albeit they have major time constraints. They removed many of Angel’s early bitter behaviors toward Michael, offering only a montage scene of her softening heart. There are also some key characters that are not there or very briefly shown, including key scenes in the book…a lot is glossed over.
- The first time we see Michael Hosea, he’s working in his field and ends up praying in church asking God about being given a wife. Aside from one or two more times, these are the only times we see Michael really praying.
- Because they do a poor job showing internal dialogue and the relationship Michael has with God, the movie ended up making him come off more creepy. If you don’t read the book, I imagine it would be harder to understand Michael’s viewpoint and purpose for bringing Angel home.
- There is two sex scenes in this movie. I understand the argument around how sensual scenes in movies help you connect with the characters and bring them to life…and I understand that this particular director probably wanted us to really understand how Angel was softening up to Michael, and viewing sex in a healthier view…but I don’t feel intimate scenes have a place in a Christian movie. Michael’s reasoning for waiting wasn’t firmly explained as well.
- There was an occasional mention of God, and about two visual shots of a Bible. Other than that, there was hardly any mention of it. Just hints. The most important part of the book was Angel clearly warming up to the idea that God loves her and eventually accepting Him into her life. There is a defining moment in the book, while Angel is on stage, and that was greatly reduced and a lot was left up to viewer’s interpretation. And another key character whose role was greatly reduced, and after that stage scene…we go straight to Angel in the House of Magdalena. More key parts gone, and the key reason why I don’t think this movie is considered a Christian film.
What I Wish They Did Differently
I wish there was a stronger theme of Christianity. I wish they weren’t scared to create a stronger theme of Christianity, after all, that is the true romance story of all time…God blessing us with His only Son to die for our sins so we may experience eternal life. There was no opportunity to reach out to viewers who were unbelievers and clearly show them through film the restorative healing power of God and how no matter your past, you are called and wanted by Him. The book was able to do that, but the moviegoers will probably walk away from is thinking, “Wow, I need a Michael Hosea who’s dedicated and will wait for me like he waited for Angel” and “I’m so glad Duke is dead”. When you read the book, you close it thinking about God.
Personally, I also wish they made this into a tv mini series, so there was more time for character building and storytelling. I also wish they would have been mindful of not using language or strong sexual scenes in a Christian movie.
My Final Thoughts
This was produced by the same company that developed God’s Not Dead, and it’s promoted by a Christian radio station. I expected it to be on par with the wholesome movies that these companies usually promote. However, I do understand the stronger mature themes that the book has and how some is necessary to share this story…but the movie never redeemed itself as it skipped the main theme…Angel overcoming her sins and trauma by the grace, mercy, and love of God. This is not a movie I’d be able to play at a church bible study. I give it 1/5 stars as a Christian movie.
This movie was no different than Nicholas Sparks movies, like Dear John and The Notebook. I give it 2/5 stars as a secular romance movie.
I do admit, I could be a bit harsh in my review but I have high standards for book adaptions and media that claims to be Christian. I do still recommend the book despite my opinion on the movie.
Make your own opinion and go see Redeeming Love yourself, in theaters, starting January 21st. Buy tickets here.
In the first 10 minutes, the movie checks a few select swear words that include a few b*****, one a**, and derogatory word relating to prostitution. There is some minor physical assault toward Angel and a short bar fight scene. A woman’s body lays dead on the street. A man is strangled to death and a child is forced to watch. A man holds a gun to his head and shoots, nothing is seen. There is a case of incest, nothing is shown or heard. Angel is also topless frequently in the first half of the movie, breasts mostly covered by her long hair. Michael is shirtless in a scene. There are two intimate scenes with Michael and Angel. While they are mostly clothed, it’s clearly viewed that the begin to have sex (kissing, embracing, heavy breathing, Michael cupping Angel’s breast, pants unbuckled, clear acts of…insertion…though the camera does pan away so we don’t see the entirety of the scenes. A forced abortion and sterilization is also implied. There is drinking and mentions of drunkenness and adultery.