Reviewed by: Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
How can I deal with temptations? Answer
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
“Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “The Ring,” “Thank You for Smoking”
Meg Ryan, Kristen Stewart, Olympia Dukakis
|Producer:||Lawrence Kasdan, Steve Golin, David J. Kanter|
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“Get ready to fall”
A note to the reader: The flavor of this review is quite different from those which I have written in the past, or may write in the future. This difference is necessitated by the fact that my conscience is torn as I wrestle with how this film should be presented on Christian Spotlight on the Movies. I feel unsure whether to unabashedly laud or dutifully criticize this film with which, on both moral and intellectual plains, I was truly impressed. Thus, I find myself left with the unenviable task of attempting to do both.
Every once in a while, a movie comes along that surprises. A movie that dares to tell an original story, with warmth and real emotion, portraying characters who might actually exist in the reality with which the rest of us are so intimately acquainted. In the Land of Women is such a movie; possessing both the story quality of a well-thought-out independent film and the movie-making quality of a major motion picture. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the studio feels the need to disguise such movies in deceptive advertisements, desperately attempting to hide the real plot behind a facade of clips, bytes and poster shots which are seemingly intended to mislead prospective viewers into believing that this diamond in the rough is just another bit of rubble, indistinguishable from the rest.
A fabulous side-effect of the misleading advertisements associated with this film is that the entire storyline is kept under wraps. I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie which the plot had not already been revealed through the trailers so extensively that there remain little or no elements of discovery in the viewing. There was, for me, almost nothing predictable to be found in this script and that, coupled with not having seen or heard any “spoilers,” made the experience so much more enjoyable. With these thoughts in mind, my plot summary will be deliberately vague, and my moral critique as unspecific as possible.
This story is not a romance, though it focuses at various points on about fifteen different relationships playing out among the seven main characters. This film is not a comedy, though there were a few hearty laughs to be had. It is not dark or depressing, while serious issues such as cancer, adultery, and death are addressed. This movie is not saccharine, yet it is deeply touching and at times quite heartwarming. This is a film about “real life.”
Our hero in this story is Carter Webb, charmingly acted by Adam Brody. Carter is sensitive, vulnerable, strong, funny, patient, and very kind to those around him, including his ailing grandmother. Watching Carter form differing bonds with the three female members of the family across the street (mother and two daughters) is both intriguing and endearing. Carter’s relationship with his senile grandmother (played fabulously by Olympia Dukakis), who he is taking care of full-time, is attentive and loving, though at times he becomes frustrated with the acting out of her dementia. These scenes between grandma and grandson are both touching and humorous, and as someone who has had grandparents living in her home, I can vouch for how very realistic the portrayal was.
Unfortunately, there is an interesting moral “catch” to this otherwise admirable character: He is a script writer in the “soft-core” pornographic film industry. This was one of a few issues scattered in the story which were very unfortunate because it added an unnecessary element of immorality which muddies the film. Carter’s career is introduced to us near the beginning, and there is one phone call to which we are privy between Carter and his boss in which they are discussing elements of an upcoming pornographic film. While the conversation is not graphic, the content is undesirable and it is one of the reasons why children should not be allowed to view this movie. After this, the subject of his vocation is not addressed directly, indeed the people around him in the story are not even aware of what he does.
Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) is the mom who lives across the street. Carter’s relationship to Sarah is the more central—and most complex—focus of the film.
The role of Sarah fits Meg Ryan so beautifully it seems tailor-made for her. I cannot think of an actress who could more convincingly portray Sarah’s maturity and motherhood intertwined with vulnerability and uncertainty.
Sarah’s daughters, Paige and Lucy, (Kristen Stewart and Makenzie Vega) are typical adolescents, not in the way that adolescents are generally portrayed in fictional media, but they are girls we might meet in our own neighborhoods. The banter between the sisters, who share a friendship which is portrayed very realistically, is quite believable, and Makenzie Vega is so convincing in her role as the younger sister she quite often steals the scenes from her older counterparts.
So often, scripts are plotted in such a way as to definitively instruct the audience as to who we should “like” and who we must vilify. In contrast to this make-believe black and white world, life’s characters are most often gray, possessing the ability to do both “good” and “evil”—to be both likable and unlikable. There are so few wholly admirable (indeed, if we are to be honest, there are none such humans) and equally few wholly detestable individuals to be found in our daily lives. In the Land of Women introduces us to just such realistic people.
Some specific elements of moral concern:
“Real life” does not consist solely of happily-ever-afters with kisses in the rain, or an endless series of jokes and slapstick incidents, or supposed “deep” conversations held under a guise of intellectualism by lost souls reaching for something they have yet to discover. Real life is a mixture of all these things; a road full of bumps and curves, where the only certainty for most is uncertainty and the only tangible reality to be grasped by all who are willing to accept Truth leads to God.
My bottom line: While not family-friendly, this film is worth seeing.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.