Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release Date: September 26th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
The Song– Starring Alan Powell, Ali Faulkner, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Danny Vinson, Aaron Benward, Gary Jenkins
With a great amount of Christian movies/faith based films already released this past year, inclusive of God’s Not Dead, Mom’s Night Out, The Perfect Wave, Son of God, Coffee Shop, Ragamuffin, Heaven Is For Real, and Noah; it’s time to add another inspirational and heart-warming movie to this high quality collection of faith based films. It’s one that isn’t that overt in its subject matter, which could inspire and move even non-Christians to watch the film. The Song is based and rooted in the Old Testament story of Solomon; however the movie is set in modern day times.
Starring Alan Powell (from Anthem Lights) as the main character- country music singer Jed King- and directed by first time director Richie Ramsey; it’s a film where Alan makes his full length acting debut, where Jed becomes famous and popular after writing a hit song for his wife. It’s a modern day Ecclesiastes story with Jed loosely based on the role of Solomon. The Song though may not be everyone’s favourite movie, nor will every single person who views the film may see the influence of God in there, however I believe that if you look deeper, there are gems to be found- enough for us to think about and dwell upon the important things in life and look inside ourselves so that we can reprioritise if we need to.
We all know the story of David and how Solomon was born right? I think even non-believers do. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s the run down, which is in 2 Samuel. David slept with a married woman (Bathsheba) while he was king, and then sent her husband Uriah to the frontline of the war at the time, so that he could die. Bathsheba fell pregnant, and David’s son was named Solomon. And as Solomon grew up, he became wise, probably the wisest in all of the land, and when he became king after his father, he passed laws and such. He built a holy temple, and also became a mediator on many subjects (remember the two woman who were fighting over one baby, as the other had died?).
Yet Solomon later in life, despite being very wise, and also writing several books on wisdom and the love of God (both Ecclesiastes and Song Of Songs come to mind, and Solomon may have written Proverbs as well); he fell away from God, marrying 300 wives and 700 concubines. These were mostly foreign princesses, and during this period, Solomon was worshipping idols. And not long after God punishes Solomon for turning against Him, he dies.
If we know that story in the Bible, then we virtually know the plot of the film The Song. But that should not deter you from watching the film, as I am positive you will gain something from it. The modern day adaptation reminds us that the problems of Solomon are in fact universal and that what can be learnt from the story of Solomon is just as useful and relevant today than any other time period.
Jed King is based on the character of Solomon, and at the beginning of the film, we are shown a montage of Jed’s birth- his father David slept with a married woman just like David slept with Bathsheba, and the film also shows Jed visiting his father’s grave and him growing up to be a young man following in his father’s footsteps, in the montage as well. Where the film does do a time jump, Jed is a famous independent country music singer singing his dad’s songs in pubs and clubs. But after financial trouble, his indie label drops him and Jed is landed a gig on a local vineyard harvest festival. There he meets Rose, who is the daughter of the vineyard owner, and they fall in love. After a whirlwind romance (and this is the part of the film which isn’t that realistically if you ask me, as the scenes of Jed and Rose falling in love span over 2-3 minutes, but encompasses probably weeks and months of Jed and Rose’s life!), the pair are married, which is shortly after Jed prays and asks for wisdom, and vows to his wife to build a chapel- they are married in the half finished chapel! But that is where everything starts to go a bit pear shaped, at around the 30 minute mark.
One day, Jed pens a song for his wife. It’s a love song, driven by acoustic guitar, and later on with banjo when Jed formally records it in the studio, speaks about the commitment between a man and his wife, and more especially about Jed and Rose’s love. With the song becoming a major hit, tours are offered to Jed, which he takes, just after Rose gives birth. While Rose and his baby are left at home on the winery with Rose’s sick and ailing father, Jed is travelling the country, seeing the sights. He remains faithful to his wife, and calls her everyday, until he meets fellow country singer Shelby, who is his opener on a tour 2-3 years after his son is born. Shelby seduces him, to put it bluntly, without any thought to his wife, and also introduces him to drugs and other kinds of worldly pleasures. Soon after, she destroys his marriage- big surprise- not really- as it is common sense that infidelity will mess up a family! Jed tries to earn forgiveness from Rose once he’s in the deepest pit (mind you, he partly dug that metaphorical pit himself, and he knew exactly what he was getting into!) but she isn’t easily swayed by his words.
What transpires for the rest of the film, is Jed trying to be back to the person God intended for him to be, regardless if it makes him famous or not, whether it sells him record deals or not. While I am not going to outline whether the love story of Jed and Rose ends well or not (that should be a surprise so that you can be persuaded to watch the film!), I will say this; this film teaches us a lesson to cherish the ones we love and not to covet the things we don’t just because they seem to be rosier or better. Often or not, the worldly desires that we think are better for us are worse, and Richie portrays this fact quite brilliantly.
One of the drawcards for this film is Alan Powell acting in a film, which he portrays quite well, considering it’s his first time in the lead; and this should drawn in all of the Anthem Lights’ fans (considering he sings quite a few songs in this film as well, even though they are not in his genre of pop!). However both Ali Faulkner and Caitlin Nicol-Thomas shine as well, in their roles of Rose and Shelby respectively. Granted, this is the story of Jed’s journey, however Ali’s portrayal of the meek and mild wife, who slowly stands up for what she believes in, providing the wake up call for Jed to turn his life around when she temporarily leaves him; and Caitlin’s representation of the cunning, manipulative and scheming seductress that leads Jed astray; are both compelling and in my opinion both actresses’ filmography are worth looking into and checking out!
With Alan, Ali and Caitlin working well together- their onscreen chemistry is as good as any other main cast in other films; and Gary Jenkins and Danny Vinson offering up able and competent support as Jed’s slimy manager that always looks out for himself, and Rose’s slightly overbearing but good-natured father; The Song has a cast that seems like they have thoroughly enjoyed working on the movie, as they portray the story of a man who finds his way back to God.
While most Christian films have that tendency to try to slap on an overt gospel message at the end of the film, to try to convert as many non-Christians as possible to Jesus; The Song is different in respects to its message and the delivery. There are Bible quotes from Jed scattered throughout the film, as he speaks out verses from Ecclesiastes and Song Of Songs verbatim, and also, a few mentions to God and religion. But apart from these; this film is on the whole a bit more covert, using metaphors and allegories to make the point about Jesus, life and faith.
For me this aspect of the film made me restless a bit, as things weren’t spelled out, and I love Christian and faith based films that have an explicit gospel message at the end. In fact, after watching the film, I was prepared to rate it low as I didn’t hear a 3 or 4 minute speech on how Jed changed his life because Jesus spoke to him. But the more I thought about everything, the more I understood the reason why the film was covert and Richie’s style of filming. In the Bible, Jesus didn’t teach in overt language, and on a deeper look, this film is meant to be covert considering the metaphors and allegories- Richie was intending to make a descriptive film rather than a prescriptive film.
This film doesn’t tell you how to be saved, nor does it tell us what Christianity is explicitly about; but it does make us think, about the deeper issues in life. Now that I know Richie’s mindset, I can relate to the intention of the film (it wasn’t meant to be a cinematic sermon!) more so, and appreciate it for what it is, not for what it lacks in terms of the genre; and hopefully other people can be moved by the film like I eventually was.
After I came to that mindset, I found the film a bit more interesting. As even in terms of scenery; that tells a story too. Apart from the outside shots, constituting about less than half the length of the film, most of the film is shot in darker areas, with the colours of blue, grey and black prominent. For me I felt that this was intentional as it mirrored, reflected, complemented and symbolised Jed’s inner battle and journey. Both of Jed’s women in his life were shot differently also, and this symbolised which part of Jed’s life was real and which wasn’t.
Rose’s scenes were mostly filmed with outside shots and natural light around her, and Shelby in the artificial light rooms. To me this showed us that Jed was living a double life, like we sometimes do in terms of what we give our lives to other than God; and it is this double life that broke him. If anything, the different filming techniques show us that being honest and seeking after God is important as well as family.
For me the take home message of the film is that forgiveness is always possible, and that no one is too far from the grace of God. Jed clearly went on a journey, and was changed by the end of it. Though I wouldn’t want to go on the extreme journey of Jed’s, I believe that people watching The Song, myself included, will realise that it’s better to have a relationship with our Creator than no relationship at all. And as the film showed us that life with Jesus is infinitely better than without; there’s enough in terms of the message in the 120 minute film for everyone.
It took a while for me to see it (and even so I still prefer the prescriptive Christian films), but while The Song doesn’t spell everything out, the pieces of the puzzle of Christianity are still there. Kudos to Richie and the actors for delivering an inspiring message that is family friendly. Though it is not know whether more people will come to Christ through a film like this rather than something more overt than God’s Not Dead; I still congratulate the efforts of all involved. With the intention of the film being to make Jesus famous, should you watch the film, even if the bits that overtly mention Jesus are few and far between? It’s up to you, but I would give it a chance. Who knows, if this film doesn’t move or inspire you like other overt Christian films (not the fault of anyone!), then the least it could do is point you to Anthem Lights’ music, which then points you to Jesus Christ. Well done Alan, Ali, Caitlin, Richie, and everyone else, as you point to way to Jesus and show us that life with Him is more abundant and satisfying than without!