Directed by: DJ Caruso
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Written by Patrick Hao
“Redeeming Love” is based on the popular Christian romance novel of the same name by Francine Rivers. The novel was originally published in 1991 at the height of Fabio romance book covers and born-again Christianity. The novel, therefore, offered the appealing prospect of reading about salacious sex just to ultimately be forgiven with the message of the lord. The film version of “Redeeming Love” offers the same kind of salacious thrills but like most movies of this ilk, the black and white morality is too simplistic to offer much for those who are not already fans.
To have someone like DJ Caruso, director of “Disturbia” and “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” speaks to the confidence PureFlix had with the source material in breaking into the secular market. And Caruso’s sense of style and clear skill makes this film look better than most films in this market. The film did sell itself as a classic enduring romance. Set during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, Angel (Abigail Cowen) is born into a den of sin. Her mother (Nina Dobrev) is a sex worker abused by the boozy, gambling men of Pair-a-Dice. I cannot tell what on-the-nose is more, naming your protagonist Angel or naming the town Pair-a-Dice.
The hallmarks of Christian storytelling and moral proselytizing are throughout this film. Angel is subjected to all the abuses one can hurl at a person. There is abuse, abortion, incest, and sexual assault. Then one day, while Angel is waiting for her next customer at the brothel, in comes Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis), a direct reference to the Book of Hosea. He is a young farmer whose faith in God and horniness finds himself attracted to Angel. He buys her time not to have sex, but to propose marriage. Of course, he does not have sex on the first date.
Angel resists this proposal but does agree to live with him and learn about his wholesome way of life. The film becomes a clear born-again allegory as Angel’s past has to be forgiven by the unconditional love of Michael – the Jesus stand-in. All this becomes a gross sense of victim-blaming. Angel’s sins are often those inflicted upon her by others. Yet, she still must be forgiven for one-sided choices.
Never is there any sort of reckoning for Michael’s clear carnal desire for Angel. Then again, the audience for this film does not want the Messiah figure struggling with his own sense of moral unrighteousness. Rather the film’s purpose is to reinforce the beliefs of the people watching it. I, however, am not part of the choir to be preached to.
“Redeeming Love” Trailer
“Redeeming Love” is on VOD.