Most of my corner of the bookish community is aware of the book and adaptation out now of the 1990s bestselling novel Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It has been the recipient of polarized reviews depending on whose opinion readers seek, so I was interested in seeing for myself how it preserves the integrity of the original in a film format.
It has been about 10 years since I read the novel, so I dusted it off and reread a few key parts to refresh my memory of the framework and details of the story before watching the movie. I remember liking the novel upon my initial read, and I understand the appeal of it to an unlikely audience with its strong redemption message. But, it’s not one of my very favorite historical romances. I am still thrilled to see an adaptation of a Christian fiction novel — I hope its success and visibility draws interest in more adaptations and in the genre as a whole.
I think the movie is an admirable and very close adaptation of the story. It does change some of the details for the timeline’s sake, but the message of redemption and the selfless love of Michael (a metaphorical Christ figure, when viewed through a faith lens) is present and impactful. The faith of Michael, and subsequently Angel’s trust and another key character’s redemption plot, are all clearly conveyed.
The cinematography, costuming, and acting delivery are all excellent.
I had forgotten how serious and brutal some of the storyline is, and I think the movie captured it well without getting super violent or explicit on screen. However, its themes are definitely mature and not for a young or apprehensive audience (especially a caution for viewers with a connection to abuse). I would consider it a caution for teens, too, and I would encourage any parents of teens to view with them and discuss after. It could be a great starting point for a discussion of healthy (and unhealthy) relationships and choices.
I also want to address the consensual scenes. This is perhaps the most polarized thing I’ve seen discussed in online reviews. While I feel these love scenes could have been shortened a little for my sensibilities, they are necessary to convey the Godly intent of a sexual relationship in marriage in contrast to the abuse and history of Angel’s character, and her understanding of selfless love. This is an important and tastefully done part of the novel, and I felt like it was handled fairly well on screen. It does push the bounds of the PG13 rating though, in my opinion, when the sensuality of these scenes is considered with the other (violence, both implied and not; and abuse) content.
For further reading, I would recommend the perspective of Tricia Goyer on her blog, an experienced author and personal friend to Francine Rivers.