Distributed by Frontstreet Pictures
Original Air Date: October 12th 2014 (7/6c)
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Heavenly Match– Starring Samaire Armstrong, Brendan Penny, LeToya Luckett, Bill Dow, Jody Thompson, Gwynyth Walsh, Gabrielle Rose
Having reviewed the UPTV film Coffee Shop last month, I have somewhat kept tabs on the channel’s programming slate over the next few weeks and months. And one such film I have jumped at the chance of watching, and then reviewing, in the anticipation that it will be a fun, family friendly film, with an inspiring message, is Heavenly Match, about the personal and professional life of a female minister and how she deals with adversity. Sound a tiny bit cliché? This film debuted today at 7pm on UPTV, and though I felt that the film was a bit cheesy in parts, the general sense was that it is motivational, encouraging and inspirational enough for anyone to gain something out of it.
Maybe you’re all watching the film now, or maybe you have finished the film, depending on the time zone that you all live in, but let me give you a quick run-down on the plot, Casey Hart (Samaire Armstrong) is an associate pastor at the independent church of the Good Shepherd, and has her status elevated when the senior pastor (whose name I can’t recall), who’s on holidays, suddenly retires, leaving Casey to step in in the interim. The board immediately endorse Casey (with the disclaimer that she’s only in the job until they can find a replacement- a real minister), however Casey herself has doubts about her own calling, and whether she should step away permanently from ministry.
Immediately from the outset, we see Casey struggling with the notion that she’s seen and officiated many weddings, but she’s not married herself. Similar to Coffee Shop in that both movies have their protagonist delivering an inner monologue all throughout, we hear that Casey longs to have a boyfriend and be married someday. Somewhere in the film, Casey realises that she has had long deep seated dormant but now awakened feelings (of love?) for her best friend David (Brendan Penny), a senior pastor from another church. She confides this recent turn of feelings to her other best friend Ronnie (ex-Destiny Child member and current solo artist LeToya Luckett), who’s also another senior pastor from another church, and is Casey’s sounding board. The two friends run together in the park frequently, and that is where most of her advice comes from.
In addition to her feelings for David, which may or may not be requited, and is a topic that is resolved in the final moments of the film (which I’m not going to spoil!), Casey also has to deal with disapproval from the board, as she later finds out that they all picked Casey for the interim minister out of duty, and not because she inspired people. Around that same time that these three members (Bill Dow, Jody Thompson, and Gabrielle Rose) voice their concerns, they bring Casey in for an impromptu meeting and basically tell her that the offering collection has significantly decreased ever since she was appointed interim minister.
One board member Olivia accuses someone of stealing, however any action to remove Casey from the interim senior minister position is stalled when the other two members quickly focus their attention to the missing money. While Casey takes matters in her own hands, and tries to actively see if someone has being stealing money from the offering, she does so by buying a camera and installing it in the church at night, with the help of David. In fact, Casey spends quite a lot of time with David in the film, as both of them realise that their feelings for each other are not so platonic than they once thought.
When it is revealed that SPOILER Olivia is the one who was stealing the money (is this a spoiler? The film has finished airing so… anyway), Casey confronts Olivia in her own home (as Olivia fell down sometime in the film, and was bed ridden for a while), and talks about the issue with her, where Olivia inadvertently opens up, and subtly mentioning that in the past she herself wanted to be a minister, but everyone around her said that it was wrong, and that only men should be put in that position. This is probably why Olivia acts so hostile towards Casey, as she sees the person she couldn’t be, and is jealous. While I’m not going to divulge what happens to Olivia, and whether Casey forgives her or whether she turns her over to the police, I will say that there is a surprising resolution and twist that is nicely acted by everyone, that reminds us about God’s love and the love we can all have for each other if we allow Him to move in our lives.
With Casey’s love life and professional life being in ‘limbo’ throughout most of the film, it is the secret that she is thinking of leaving the ministry that creates the most tension and drama with the characters. Revealing her secret to David and then Ronnie during the film, the response she receives is mixed, and less than what she hoped for, so I guess it’s no surprise that Casey visits her mentor Sarah (Gwynyth Walsh) to try to receive her ‘stamp of approval’- however when she doesn’t, but rather receives quite a lot of valid questions regarding her faith; Casey takes a long hard look at herself.
As far as the storyline goes, there’s a lot packed into it. Casey’s love life, her struggle to stay in her role as senior minister or not, and the issue with the missing money, are all front and centre to the plot. Which makes character development here a little bit less than I would have liked. The character of Casey’s mentor Sarah, who was living in a nursing home, was introduced mid-way through the film, for the purpose of giving Casey advice, while her death a few scenes later, prompted Casey to realise her true calling in ministry, as she read a few verse highlighted in Sarah’s bible and had an epiphany of sorts. Is this a bit too convenient? If Sarah was truly Casey’s mentor, why was she in a few scenes? I know, I know, the film had to cover the rest of the parallel plot lines, however this was a nit-pick that I had. Also, while Casey’s friends from Divinity School were all present, what about her friends outside church, or her family (parents, siblings etc). Aside from Ronnie talking with Casey in the park where they ran, and in the coffee shop, there wasn’t that much more screen time for LeToya, except for the part where her character tells Casey that she’s making a big life change too. I would have preferred more scenes with Ronnie and Casey talking together, however that’s just my personal opinion, as LeToya shines brightly in her role as the supportive friend.
What I did love about the film actually is that a few of the plot points came together nearer to the end of the film, when Casey was deliberating as to how to act with the information she now knew about Olivia. Having been accepted into law school (where she was going to go if she stepped down from ministry), she was reminded that being a lawyer would have required her to prosecute Olivia. As Casey wrestles with her feelings on that topic, she receives confirmation and a sign about her calling, and that part in the film is what I like. Another aspect that I love about the show is the abundance of Bible verses quoted, and the reminder that God’s plans are higher than our own ways and desires. With the film being very overt in its portrayal of the gospel, we are reassured that with Jesus, anything is possible, and all we need to do is trust him, just like Casey did nearer to the end of the film. Though the movie is slightly cliché and cheesy at times, director Michael M Scott should be proud of his efforts, as we are given hope that everything will be alright in our lives regardless of how hard our hardships are. No matter whether Heavenly Match garners positive reviews or not, this is a show that overall has so much heart and inspiration, that I will recommend it to anyone who wants to be built up and uplifted.
As far my opinion on the actors and their portrayals of their characters are concerned, Samaire was perfectly cast in her role as the conflicted and doubting Casey. Already familiar with Samaire’s work as a main cast member on Resurrection and her recurring role on The Mentalist; Samaire’s strong acting here and commanding presence may persuade me to check out the rest of her filmography. Portraying Casey with assurance, elegance, and proficiency, personally there could not be anyone else more suited for the role, as Samaire was so immerse in the role that at times it was hard to recognise here (definitely a good thing!). Though for me I found myself not liking the 3 church board members (was this the film’s intention?), the roles of David and Ronnie were cast perfectly, with Brendan and LeToya both excelling in their portrayals of Casey’s support team. Though the film is not as picturesque as Coffee Shop, with shots of the inside church being around half of the film; hopefully the strong Christian message will garner this film’s success! In fact, it is the heartstrings that the storyline pulls with its viewers that makes me happy and thoroughly moved, inspired and fulfilled after the duration. To me, the whole main cast (Samaire, Brendan and LeToya) have won me over, and I will be looking out for their new movies or TV series as well!
The second film that I have seen on UPTV this year with the first being Coffee Shop, and the film being the 3rd UPTV film overall, with the 1st being Brother White a couple of years ago; Heavenly Match does have its flaws, however the brighter spots outweigh the parts which seem to let it down just a little bit. While the acting is superb, I felt that the plots were a bit too rushed. However such is how 90 minute films are, and given what the film had to work with, I would say it’s pretty spot on in the delivery of the heart-warming and encouraging message. Presenting us with heart, soul and reassurance, Heavenly Match is sure to be a film that I would watch many more times, and receive more and more insight from God every time as well! As a Christian film, everyone involved has created a masterpiece, and if not anything else this film is a fantastic tool to evangelise to your non-Christian friends, considering the overt Christian references. Well done to Michael, Samaire, Brendan, LeToya and everyone else involved! I hope and pray that UPTV continues to create well produced family friendly movies with a faith based message in the near future!
Heavenly Match airs on UPTV on today at 7/6c