By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) — In keeping with the song and book from which it takes its title, nondenominational affirmations of faith permeate the fact-based romantic drama “I Still Believe” (Lionsgate), making the film congenial fare for Christians of various stripes.
The absence of objectionable material, moreover, renders this love story suitable for all but the youngest viewers who might be upset by some of the events it portrays.
KJ Apa plays future Christian music star Jeremy Camp. As the picture opens, Indiana-bred Jeremy is off to college in California. There he promptly falls at first sight for fellow student Melissa Henning (Britt Robertson). But their relationship faces a series of challenges.
The initial problem is that Jeremy’s friend and professional mentor, Jean-Luc LaJoie (Nathan Dean) — who, as front man for a group called the Kry is an already established singer — also loves Melissa, though she just wants to be his pal. So the duo feel compelled to conceal their deepening bond from Jean-Luc, at least temporarily.
No sooner has this triangle been resolved, however, than a much graver development arises when Melissa is diagnosed with cancer. Jeremy, who is clearly on board with the whole “in sickness and in health” deal, doesn’t allow this to deter him from wheeling Melissa into the chapel of the hospital where she’s being treated and popping the question.
Though generally supportive of him, Jeremy’s parents, Tom (Gary Sinise) and Terri (Shania Twain), are understandably concerned that, at just 20, he might be getting ahead of himself. But Jeremy remains convinced that marrying Melissa, even as he prays fervently for her to be healed, is the right thing to do.
By hewing to the real-life ups and downs recounted in Camp’s eponymous 2003 memoir, directors and brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin’s winning picture, which the former co-wrote with Jon Gunn, avoids following a predictable arc. It also gains credibility by portraying the sad truth that, however anxious Jeremy may be to nurture her, there are times when Melissa must suffer alone.
Additionally, “I Still Believe,” which is paced by musical interludes, sends a pro-life message via Jeremy’s kindly interaction with handicapped kids, most prominently his developmentally challenged younger brother, Josh (Reuben Dodd). Taken together with the other positive values underlying the script, this outlook will make Jeremy’s partial biography appealing to moviegoers committed to Bible-based morality.
The film contains mature themes, brief medical gore and a couple of marital bedroom scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.