Opening in the 1930’s Mississippi, in what could be a John Steinbeck novel, a man tries to find work to support him and his pregnant wife. He returns home with no luck to find his wife had given birth to twins. Overwhelmed by both joy and dread, the father now has to discern how he will care for these newborns.
While at a tent-revival, the father (Brian Geraghty) hears Pastor Reese Wade (Ray Liotta) give an inspirational sermon, sharing openly about he and his wife Louise (Ashley Judd) struggle to have a child of their own. The father filled with agony for providing for two newborns suddenly has an epiphany.
The pastor and his wife agree to adopt one of the twins. The two men agree that they will not tell the boys about each other. One will grow up in the poverty of the cotton fields, and the other will grow up in the middle class home of a preacher. One will rise to the top of the charts, while the other will drop out of seminary.
The film’s main subject is Ryan Wade, the twin raised by the preacher and his wife. During a moment in church where other boys his age are reciting Bible verses from memory, Ryan has trouble remembering his verse. So, he handles it like he does other things, he sings it. He shows a gift for music, resulting in his adoptive father thinking that young Ryan has been called to the ministry.
While Ryan loves God and loves his church, he struggles with answering the call his father feels he has. Ryan feels that he has a calling to music. He loves to sing and when he hears a new singer named Drexel “The Dream” Hemsley on his radio, his own dream is rekindled.
After winning a singing competition where Ryan sang as Hemsley, he is booked at state fairs all over the place billed as “The Identical.” Ryan’s wife believes in him and his dream. It is enough for Ryan to reconsider his life and his calling.
But how can he tell his father that his calling is not to the ministry?
First time director Dustin Marcellino employs film school-like techniques that do not quite seem to fit into the storytelling. While the use of black-and-white to reflect the past is an excellent tool, it last too long or is not consistent. While the film will not receive a Golden Globe or Oscar nod, it has some redeeming qualities. The film is one of the best period pieces and it is not one of those faith-based films that overly “Christian.” There are a few moments, as all faith-based films tend to have, which I will not tell you about in hopes you will discover it too.
Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd are exceptional as the pastor and his wife. At first you think Reese Wade is going to be one of those fire-and-brimstone preachers, but when he pauses in his preaching at the tent-revival to share a deeply personal reality – he and his wife are experiencing infertility – you know that Reese is different. He is thoughtful, nurturing, and loving. He believes deep in his heart that Ryan is called by God to the ministry and it breaks his heart when he sees his son “stray.”
Liotta adds some complexity to this pastor. He is more than the pastor-father who does not like rock and roll because it is the devil’s music, or the pastor-father who does not like dancing because it leads to other non-Christian things. Liotta’s Reese is a father who struggles to do as he thinks is correct and to allow his son to become who God has called him to be. It is a unique struggle and tension that most parents experience.
In one of the best scenes, Ryan returns home to an aging Reese working on the family car. As they embrace in a hug, Reese says to his son, “Follow your calling, not mine.” Reese has finally come to terms that Ryan following his dream to become a singer, is Ryan fulfilling his call.
This is a great film for Friday night family movie night or for a rainy Saturday afternoon. It is compelling and entertaining film about being true to yourself and following your call.
Between now and January 18, 2014, you have a chance to win a copy of this film. Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and not influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for the review and post.