Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: erin bethea

The Redemption of Henry Myers (2014)

Redemption of Henry MyersThe Redemption of Henry Myers first aired on the Hallmark Channel in March 2014. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The film is one from new, Christian-based studio EchoLight Studies, founded by former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who was an executive producer on this film. The studio has stated that it strives to not “create sermons wrapped in a movie but to create content that inspires, fascinates and incorporates a strong Christian worldview.”

The film is the story of Henry Myers (Drew Waters, Breaking Bad) who has lived a hard life. This Western opens as so many classic Westerns do, with a bank robbery. The symbolism in the opening scene is remarkable for the direction the rest of the film will go. A man on a horse-pulled cart carrying two pine coffin boxes, opens the boxes to reveal two of the most wanted men in the area. Afterwards, they rob a bank. In the midst of struggle, Henry’s gun goes off and kills a preacher.

Riddled with bad dreams, Henry finally finds himself at the home of the widow Marilyn (Erin Bethea) and her two children, Will and Laura. The family is a faith-filled family, they pray together and read from the Bible each evening. Henry stays away from most of it. But he listens and he ponders.

Jaden Roberts is excellent as the young daughter Laura. In many ways, Roberts carries the scenes she is in. She is the innocent, yet wise girl. She sees beyond the rough exterior of Henry to see his warm heart. And in moments when Marilyn is ready to let him go, it is Laura who reminds her that their Christian duty to care for the stranger.

The images of the Good Samaritan from the gospel of Luke are obvious. Henry is the man beaten and wounded, and Marilyn is the Samaritan who cares for Henry when no one else will. It is obvious because it is one of the Bible passages the family reads together. As Marilyn says to Henry at one point, “Everyone deserves kindness.”

And Henry is not used to that. As he starts to feel better, he helps out around the ranch with an arm in a sling. As he helps Will (Ezra Proch) put up a fence, the two have a conversation about doubt and faith. Will, who has been listening to the Bible being read since birth, doubts that there is much truth to it all. But Henry, who has only been listening to it for a few days, isn’t quite ready to say that it’s all unbelievable.

I typically approach Christian films with some caution. Frankly, deliberately Christian films tend to be bad films. Redemption, however, is not one of those films. It’s a good, clean, family friendly film. And it doesn’t go in the direction you might think it will. At least, I didn’t. I was pleasantly surprised at the twist, and think that it is a better movie because of it. I only have two wishes. I wish that the scene where Henry has his break-down of yelling to God was done a little differently. It was too predictable. The other is that I wish director Clayton Miller used more of Erin Bethea’s acting chops. Bethea is an incredible actress. I did not feel like Miller tapped into all that Bethea could  have offered this film.

Overall, the film is a good film. It portrays the struggle between revenge and redemption. It portrays, not just in dialogue, but through small details that change is possible, reminding us of the promise of new birth.

The DVD is available in stores and on Amazon.com. 

Interview with Erin Bethea

Note: This post and interview is cross posted at Hollywoodjesus.com. 

“What is the highlight of your career?”

JA08_3505_colorErin Bethea paused for a few seconds, unsure how to answer the question. Some might argue that it was starring opposite Kirk Cameron in the independent film Fireproof. And they may be right. The role as Cameron’s wife changed Bethea’s career path. Others might say it was landing her first professional appearance as sportscaster Alicia Houston in the hit Facing the Giants. Or, it could have been the four years she was Belle from Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Born and raised in South Georgia, Bethea got her start in professional acting after graduating from the University of Mobile with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. Her role as Alicia in Facing the Giants was her first professional gig.

The pause before Bethea’s answer does not evince uncertainty about her work, but a humble heart. “I have been privileged to work with some awesome people,” she finally says. And that privilege has led her to starring in the film This Is Our Time.

this-is-our-time-posterThe film is the interwoven stories of Luke (T. J. Dalyrmple) and Ale (Erin Bethea), who marry right after college and move to India to serve as missionaries in a leprosy village; Catherine (Kate Cobb) is an aspiring financier who joins a prestigious financial institution with the determination of changing corporate America; Ryder (Matthew Florida) lands an incredible job in social media and is eager to use the powerful medium for a greater good; and finally, Ethan (Shawn-Caulin Young), who serves as the odd-man-out character, struggles to find his vocation in life.

Vocation is what the film is all about. Each of the characters struggle with discerning who they are in a post-graduation world. Even when they think they have found out what they are to do, they bump up against different barriers. What they each discover is that God instills a calling in all our lives. Indeed, Bethea feels that God gives us two callings: “The first is God calls us to some path, plan, or action. It could be ministry, medical, or education. The second is the call to who we are as faithful and obedient followers.”

The film’s theme of calling is something that Bethea hopes viewers will connect with. She does. She has come to understand her own calling in the medium of film: “God gives me these gifts and passions, so I go in that direction.” She thinks the film could be a great conversation starter for young people who are discerning what direction their lives will take. She hopes it will help them consider in what ways God is calling them to fulfill a purpose. And, as Bethea points out, “It may not be what we intended it to be, but it’s all for God’s glory.”

Possibly the most amazing part of the film are the scenes at the leper colony in India. Bethea said that those days shooting there were life-changing and educational. “It was like something back in the Bible,” she remembers. The movie-makers worked with the organization Embrace a Village. Embrace a Village is a Christian based, non-profit organization that transforms the lives of those affected by leprosy by raising the standards of living.

Bethea remembers with great fondness meeting one older lady in the village. She was only about sixty pound and had neither hands, feet, nor nose. “She didn’t look human,” Bethea recalls. But despite her small size and her handicaps, during the singing of praise songs, she sat in the front row and her voice rang loudest. While this woman is unlikely to have survived, Bethea finds peace in the knowledge that she is no longer in pain.

This humble meeting with a woman whose name we may never know might just be the highlight of her career.

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