Redeeming Love

Directed By D.J Caruso

Starring – Abigail Cowen, Tom Lewis, Famke Janssen

The Plot – Based on the bestselling novel by Francine Rivers, the film is a powerful story of relentless love and perseverance as a young couple’s (Cowen, Lewis) relationship clashes with the harsh realities of the California Gold Rush of 1850. It is a life-changing story of the power of unconditional and all-consuming love.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, partial nudity, and strong violent content


Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers shoots himself a beautifully aerodynamic film, and one that at least visually conveys the masterful approach of a major motion picture influence to justify its theatrical existence. Whether in the intoxication of breathtaking mountainous visuals in the distance, creating picture perfect shadows and framing towards sequences with an intimate depiction, or even the smooth, sedated movements of the camera itself, it’s clear that Stoffers prescribes an endearing quality that serves as the undoubtable peak for the movie’s production, keeping it from ever feeling cheap despite the sum of its parts compromising his scenic serenity. Beyond this, the performances themselves aren’t half bad on an individualized basis, beginning with Cowen, who provides an abundance of palpable depth in the trauma she continuously bares from an abusive lifestyle. Because of such, she resonates in a look what many actresses can’t materialize with tears, conjuring up no shortage of empathy for the character despite her cryptic movements working against her integrity. Eric Dane was equally gravitational, but as an antagonist who the audience will love to hate. Dane not only supplants a consistently decent Irish accent, but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty with a seedy, deprecating personality that summarizes all of the familiar elements of toxic masculinity.


“Redeeming Love” begins with a quote from Shakespeare, signifying that “All that glitters is not gold”. Such a statement vividly paints the summary of my experience, as I found this morally bankrupt material to be among my most very hated in quite some time. Part of the problem certainly stems from an overindulgent, almost exploitative, nature within its dramatic elements, ranging from violence to sexual abuse, to even pedophilia to turn a head, with very few moments of levity in between to shoulder the brunt of their deposits. It’s all the more confusing when the script completely blindsides its audience with a religious underlining that, while not pandering or manipulative, doesn’t exactly fit in a movie this classless. This not only makes this a difficult sit for the way its repetition wears down the enjoyment of the experience, but equally creates a filthy encompassing that makes the audience feel immoral for even partaking in something for entertainment value. On that spectrum, there is none, and a lot of the reason pertains to the constantly grinding nature of its pacing, caught between redundancy and downtrodden inside of its structure. At 129 minutes, the film feels far too long, but beyond that attains an unrealistic authenticity for life that omits those moments of downtime in favor of storytelling that constantly leads to something big and shapeshifting for the corresponding drama. This is made all the more troubling with chaotic editing that frequently diminished my investment to the narrative. Because of this hinderance, certain directions materialize completely out of left field, while others will undercut the motivations for certain characters making drastic decisions in one scene, and then directly going back on them in the next, creating instability that never merits a single endearing quality to the characters and corresponding stakes we’re continuously asked to interpret. Speaking of those ingredients, the love itself between Sarah and Michael isn’t believable in the slightest, whether in the complete lack of chemistry in their interaction or the corny lines of dialogue between that Nicholas Sparks wants returned to his films immediately. It’s the single most defining aspect of the entire film, and easily the most frustrating, sifting through a male savior story in a narrative for Sarah that requires her own long-distance journey of self-discovery, but never one that rewards us the audience with a transformation reflective of such intentions. Each of their moves towards one another doesn’t exactly paint each of them in the most endearing light, especially Michael, who is not only a doormat for Sarah, but also one who isn’t even in the neighborhood of human, as he forgives and forgets more than a few instances that would cripple the soul of a stronger man. Adding to the annoyance of contradictions is the limitations in the production, like the inconsistencies of the make-up during scenes of abuse, which disappear abruptly from one scene to the next, or the threads of the wardrobe themselves, which don’t even come close to conjuring the west coast influence of the mining age, and instead feel like a thrift store scavenger hunt of the most boring variety. Hell, even the musical score echoes incoherence, as the sharp channeling of contemporary country music completely overwhelms the subtlety and nuance of every emotional context, meandering them with the kind of volume intensity that helped Tom Hanks and company overtake the beaches in Normandy during “Saving Private Ryan”, but also in the lyrical accommodation that audibly spells out every feeling and emotion long before we ever have a chance to interpret them.


There’s very little “Redeeming” about this love. Whether in the shoddy production value of compromising elements, the lukewarm toxicity of a shallow love story, or the shameless indulgence of taboo topics that tread on exploitative, nearly everything adds to an irredeemably frustrating experience, and one that is completely void of the ‘So-bad-it’s-good’ formula of cinematic achievements that can offer temporary reprieve to this kind of suffering.

My Grade: 2/10 or F-

5 thoughts on “Redeeming Love

  1. Well…..I love your review and am sorry that you sat through this film….though it has brought out quite an entertaining rant and well placed word of deposits….so thank you for your review.

  2. Wow!!! This sounds like an absolute train wreck! It sounds like it has it all! Abuse, child abuse, terrible dialogue and editing, and a 2 hour runtime to boot! January never disappoints! I’m sorry that you had to suffer through this one!

  3. “There is very little ‘Redeeming’ about this love”
    What a wrap up, and it sounds like that statement really hits the movie on the head.
    This review really helps because me. I as a person find it very hard to sit through scenes of abuse in film and tv, and its always heightened even more so when I can tell its needless and just for shock and awe.
    Awesome review!!

  4. Good grief, what an absolute trainwreck of a film. I’m deeply appalled by this movie not only for its shallow examination of faith but also that it completely fails at being romantic in the slightest. It botches a simple formula and commits every cardinal by approaching its love story and characters in the most backwards way possible. I’m so glad that you didn’t mince words with the review because it was incredibly satisfying to read. “Don’t even come close to conjuring the west coast influence of the mining age, and instead feel like a thrift store scavenger hunt of the most boring variety” excellent line. Fantastic review!

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