Reviewed by: Ken James
Starring: Peter Deluise, Jamie Hendrix Colins, Emily Carpenter, Larry Mize, Ron Adams, Danny Gilroy, Vicotria Galen | Directed by: John Deluise | Written and Produced by: Jamie Hendrix Collins, Emily Carpenter | Distributor: The Isaac Group
For too many of us, life in the suburbs is all we know. Fences separate us from each other, homes no longer provide easy access to visitors, automatic garage doors allow us to enter home without even having to step foot outside. In essence, we tell people they are not welcome to pop on over for a visit. Schedules are overbooked and people—relationships—hold little importance. Our sense of community is lost, perhaps for the first time in the history of the world. We are alienated and without lifelong friends as most of the American public moves every few years.
But some places do still have old fashioned community, like Mentone, Alabama where “Southern Heart” is filmed and takes place. A nine-year-long indie film vision from the Isaac Group, “Southern Heart” is the story of a New York City businessman, Collin Jacobs (Peter DeLuise, “21 Jump Street”) who travels to Mentone to investigate an 800-acre parcel of pristine land known as the Hawkins Place. Collin hides the true reason he’s there because he knows that his father’s business, EcoSource, is selfishly interested in the property only for its own gain. (They are a coal-mining operation.)
Adjacent to the Hawkins Place lies Camp Riverview, a place for handicapped children and adults, run by the vivacious (and sometimes rude) Tommy Owen (Jamie Hendrix Collins) and Christy Moore (Emily Carpenter, both Alabama natives in real life). The more Collin gets to know of the town and residents of it, especially Tommy, the harder his job is becoming of going through with his plan of purchasing the Hawkins Place. It becomes a matter of ethics, but the pressure is great as his father is the President and CEO of EcoSource. Perhaps something in this tight community speaks to the city boy in Collin. Statistics are showing that plenty of people are moving away from the cities toward small towns… could it be that Collin in sensing that inherent God-designed need within each of us for community?
“Southern Heart” is a feel good film similar to Pax network style made for TV movies. Though low-budget in feel in some places (some acting is poor from non-key cast members), it is full of beautiful landscapes, charming characters (wonderfully overacted from time to time, adding further to its charm), and an interesting premise. As a formulaic film, we all know what’s going to happen in the end, but it’s a fun ride getting there. Perhaps most interesting of all is the biblical allegory that is a main theme: that of the bride being ready for the return of the bridegroom at any time.
Collin, a Jewish man, explains to the Christian Tommy the significance of the lantern and keeping it fueled at all times, eager for her lover to return. (See Matthew 25). As the two from other worlds become more romantically interested, we long for it to work out. You just have to like Collin as the outsider who wants to be accepted, while Tommy is wounded by the blame she places on herself from the 12-year-old pain of losing her mother in an accident that also crippled her best friend. And what about the spiritual differences?
Collin never hides the fact that he is Jewish, nor does he seem ashamed of it (nor should he be). In one interesting scene as he looks out of the lodge he is staying at, he notices the town congregating at the local Christian church. He hurries to get himself over there, donning his Yarmulke (Jewish head covering), and enjoys Christian music with a message. There is no “conversion” experience here, but you get the impression that he may very well believe that Jesus is the Messiah. If he does, then Jewish or not their relationship is okay in God’s eyes.
Rated “G”, “Southern Heart” is appropriate for family viewing and has no profanity or sexual situations. It’s full of southern charm and good humor too! An enjoyable viewing for older children to adults.