But as for the movie Old Fashioned itself: What was the story? What did it teach? What did it glorify? In essence, is it worth watching?
And now comes the hard part of trying to review a wonderful movie without giving any spoilers. But try I will!
Since this is how my mind works, I’ll just go ahead proceed with three categories in which I think it’d be good to evaluate a movie:
So without further delay, here is my understanding of the film:
The story takes place in what appears to be eastern Ohio, in a small town where a girl running away from her past ends up renting an apartment from a man who is trying to keep his past at a distance as well. They are both (presently) single but obviously develop an attraction for each other throughout the film (come on, that’s not a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer at all).
The pace seems very slow at times, but purposely so. As we get to know Clay, he is (now) known for taking things – especially relationships – at a very slow pace. So while the critics of faith-based films will conclude this is boring, if you’re paying attention to the characters and plot of the film, you’ll understand the reason for this thoughtfully, engaging way to tell a story (I mean, heaven forbid we have patience even in the “entertainment” part of our lives).
The tone of the film is warm and tastefully artistic. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of watching the characters in one sequence of events while hearing their conversations from another scene overlaid. There is a lot of real-time dialogue and interaction as well; but this type of movement in the film is a refreshing way of storytelling. While it is obviously a love story and there is drama involved, there are also a lot of great humor moments as well.
The plot is basically about how Amber and Clay fall in love. While Amber is not a Christian and is used to being “normal” (according to modern day standards) with her interactions with men, Clay is a professing Christian and (movie title time) “Old Fashioned” when it comes to his relational standards with the opposite sex. For example, he has rules about himself that are very counter culture today – such as he will not allow himself to be in a non-public room with only one other girl, unless it’s his wife. To see how the two start dating(2) and end up together is the clear and obvious plot. And while Clay certainly is old fashioned – we see through the film how genuinely stable and refreshing that kind of true (old fashioned) love is when expressed rightly. We also see how that kind of love can transform oneself and others.(3)
There are obvious themes of redemption, forgiveness, love, and godly character. But there are also themes of the destructiveness of sin (both in the lives of the sinner himself and in the lives of those around him), and legalism (and by that I do not mean having too many rules more so than measuring one’s own righteousness according to one’s own rules, rather than measuring oneself according to the Lord Jesus Christ and then what He accomplished on the cross for all who trust in Him).
I think the use of symbolism is wonderful, but I don’t want to give any spoilers in case you like picking up on things like that yourself.
I can’t really say too much about the quality other than I really enjoyed it. Before seeing it I was expecting to say something like, “It’s obviously not a Hollywood film;” but in reality, had it not been for the purposely God-honoring plot, I would not have known the difference.
Other than what I alluded to in the previous section about the pace perhaps seeming slow at times, I really do believe that was intentional based on the characters and theme of the movie. The characters are well developed (even the supporting characters and lesser characters). The dialogue is genuine and the acting is very real. I believed these people were who they were portraying themselves to be on film. As for the cinematography and music, it was very fitting and of great quality for the film’s message.
In case you’re wondering, there was never a clear presentation of the gospel in the movie. And I personally think that’s fine. Not every Christian based film has to be evangelistic in nature. In fact, I wish there were more quality discipleship films (like how I would categorize this one) made for people who are already Christians, which, as this one does, seems to assume an evangelical Christian worldview.
While some people might see it as “moralism” at times, again, if you’re patient you will see the redemptive qualities that are found in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, and that our moral behaviors flow from a saving knowledge of Him rather than precede it as a prerequisite.
I am glad that the film portrays reality concerning how Christians in the world really do behave.
OK – [SPOILER ALERT] –
For instance, while Clay professes to be a Christian – and even in the real world I would think he was based on his testimony – he doesn’t faithfully attend any church (at the beginning of the film). While one can certainly be a Christian without having a formal affiliation with a church, depending on the circumstances and/or the duration of that season, it can certainly be a sign of spiritual immaturity to not worship regularly with other believers (Heb. 10:24-25).(4)
Yet that is the reality of our world. There seem to be many professing Christians – even those who are faithful in other areas of the Christian life (like chastity for instance), and yet do not want to be connected to a local body of fellow believers. While this is not good for them or the church, it is the reality of America today. And I think what helps make a “Christian” film good is often when it portrays reality rather than ideals.
It also portrays the reality of how some unbelievers get married after having kids, but stay together (or at least the film leads us to believe they will), and/or professing believers who get married and get divorced, or unbelievers who get married and get divorced, and then others who simply abhor the whole idea of marriage at all.
[END SPOILER ALERT]
I could go on, but all that to say, the film is not cliche; it portrays the world how it actually is right now – for good or for ill.
At the same time, because of its main message and redemptive story line, it also gives us a great hope for the future. If people would go back to the “Old Fashioned” ways of thinking in terms of what makes someone a man worthy of marriage (a leader-servant - Eph. 5:25-26), and how he ought to treat a woman whom he wishes to wed, then much of the destructive situations in our marriages (and societies) would certainly be avoided.
I would love to go into detail about all the goodness this film portrays, but not wishing to spoil any more than I already have, and not wishing to make reading this take longer than watching the movie, I’ll end here.
Suffice it to say, when it comes to a romantic movie in terms of Biblical worldview, there are more than 50 ways you can go wrong at the box office right now – but seeing “Old Fashioned” would not be one of them. In fact, I think it would be very edifying and enjoyable.
(1) Thanks to her wonderful parents who watched our kids, we were able to somehow have a lunch date and a movie date on the same day!
(2) Some might say this is courting. I’m not going to get into the whole dating versus courting debate, but I will say that the movie does tend toward the “courtship” model. Even if you’re on the dating side of the spectrum though, I think you would still enjoy the film.
(3) I want to be clear that Clay is not made out to be the amazing, sinless hero of the film. In the end we find that it is Jesus Christ and the transformation He brings through His word that not only changes Amber and her perspective on life but Clay’s as well. Both are brought into a more redemptive understanding of their own lives and of each other.
(4) And I would also say it can be a warning sign that you might not actually be a Christian – depending on several factors of course. Obviously if you are in an area where there simply are no other Christians it would be hard to meet with other believers regularly. But if you’re not in that situation I believe Scripture is clear that part of living the Christian life is to build up others in the body (Rom. 12:4-5ff; 1 Cor. 12:12, 14; Eph. 4:15-16).