I know I’m not alone in my typical dislike of most movies that are considered “Christian” or “faith-based” films. As much as I respect the good intentions that are probably behind most of those preach-to-the-choir-type stories, I usually can’t stomach the cheesiness and poor quality.
When one of the producers of the indie film Evergreen emailed me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their “Catholic film” that he claimed was not like most Christian films, I didn’t make any promises. I said I would gladly watch it, but I figured if I didn’t like it, I’d just gracefully refrain from following up with a review.
But then I watched it. And I was kind of blown away by it for a few different reasons.
It’s a very simple, kind of unexciting-sounding idea: a dating couple (Tanner Kalina, Amanda Maddox) spends a Christmas-season weekend together by themselves in Colorado and decide to dig deep into the questions they need to answer for one another before their relationship can progress.
The entire thing has only four actors, and it’s mostly dialogue. And yet, it’s compelling and entertaining, and ultimately kind of heart-wrenching.
Kalina co-created the story with producer Marshall Kistner and Catholic director Joe Duca (who also wrote the screenplay).
The Catholic part
So the guy is a Catholic. He wears a cloth rosary around his wrist and has a copy of Saint Pope John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility on his bedside table. But he has a complicated past, which includes an annulment and a lot of pain.
The girl is not Catholic, but she once was. And she’s had experiences with Catholics in the past that make her view the religion in a not-so-great light.
This is very much a story about sex. In some respects, it’s almost a how-not-to guide when it comes to setting yourself up for success in chastity.
And I’ll be honest, the sexual aspect of this movie is not going to be for everyone. Some Catholic viewers are more sensitive than others when it comes to this type of thing. And while there are no actual scenes of sex in this movie, some more sensitive viewers might find the sensuality too much (the movie’s not rated yet, but my guess is it’d be PG-13 …).
But the difference here is that it’s all to a point. There’s no gratuitous sex thrown in for no reason. It very much has to do with the morality and mindset of these two people who are trying to figure out if they can be on the same page with things enough to make a relationship work.
And I feel like the struggles and moral shortcomings of these characters, even the Catholic whose reading material suggests he’s trying to live virtuously, are very real. I know a lot of Catholics who try to be faithful but have nevertheless fallen into temptations and situations very similar to what this story shows.
We don’t have a lot of movies like this…
Evergreen really isn’t a typical Christian or Catholic movie. It doesn’t preach its point, and things aren’t wrapped up too tidily.
This film feels very realistic and accessible, not only to Catholics and other Christians, but probably to a lot of people who are struggling in a romantic relationship.
The story is kind of uncomfortable in its honesty about how imperfect Catholics can be. But it’s a very well-done indie movie, and definitely a compelling, worthwhile watch.
Right now, Evergreen is playing at film festivals (it just won pretty big at Houston’s WorldFest Film Festival), and has been well-reviewed (like here). Watch for updates when it hopefully gets picked up for some sort of distribution, either to theatrical release, streaming service, or DVD.
Image: The Daffy