Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring||Sara Simmonds, Jake McDorman, Natalie Jones, Matt Vodvarka, Cody Linley, Madison Walls, Nadir Akram, Rolanda Brigham, Benjamin Dane, Matt DeVinney, Hector Escalante, Julie Rankin, Scottie Wilkison|
|Director||Nathan Todd Sims|
|Producer||New World Pictures|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Teenager Sarah Jenkins’ fascination with Saint Joan of Arc (the “Virgin Maid”) and her gift of hearing divine voices has made her a target of ridicule at school and home. One friend did understand and pledged her his love but had to leave mysteriously. Sara has waited 5 years for his return, but now the voices have grown louder and her situation is being tested in supernatural terms of good and evil.
Sarah is nicknamed “Virg” for her commitment to save herself for her first love. When a journalism student for the school newspaper expresses interest in Sarah, she confronts long-suppressed desires and begins to question her vow. This does not go unnoticed by the other students, facilitating a crisis that could destroy not only them but the entire school.”
If you are a teenager, you know that sexual feelings can be powerful. However, the deepest desire of your heart is not sex, but real love. “Echoes of Innocence” is a movie with a captivating message on purity and the ultimate emotional and spiritual benefits of “The Promise” to those who wait for their one true love. Sex is best when it is reserved for an exclusive, lifelong, committed marriage. And it’s never too late to start over.
If you are a parent, be prepared to note that this movie will give your teen a glimpse of the exciting, radical road to passionate living. The goal of “Echoes of Innocence” is to ignite a hunger for purity, repentance, and consecration in today’s teens hearts that will prepare them for a spiritual awakening and to expose them to the reality that Satan wants them more now than ever before and that he is implementing his strategies for the warfare to come in the last days. The most vulnerable place to strike is in the hearts and minds of the young and innocent.
The burning question for teens and many parents today is—can we really remain celibant until marriage in this current age?
Sarah (new comer Sara Simmonds who’s recent credit is Independent film “Sexless”) is a High School Senior who’s faith so far surpasses her contemporaries that she is considered weird at best and down right crazy by most. Her commitment to God and to virginity in particular goes beyond what a lot of teens would consider even possible. Yet she is cool and her positive, assured attitude makes friends of most of the kids, although even her best friend, Beth (Natalie Jones), finds it hard to understand Sarah. Most of the kids have nicknamed her “Virg” and use it as a ridiculing tool to poke fun at her.
As we are introduced to Sarah her behavior may seem a bit questionable to the audience as well. Sarah is a loner who religiously escapes to her secret place, which is an old abandoned church, to pray. As she prays she has visions which always turn out to come true. She isn’t sure where they originate, but is convinced they are not to harm but to help her in her day to day struggle for purity.
Sarah has come to pattern herself after her heroin Joan of Arc, who also had visions that no one believed and who was a virgin saint. So fascinated with Joan of Arc was Sarah that she chose the subject for a detailed report in Jr. High, leaning heavily on the subject of Joan of Arc’s virginity, leaving her the subject of jeers and hostility for the rest of her school career. To speak out about virginity itself was a brave thing for a 12 year old to do, but to portray it as good and honorable for the rest of her teen years by actually living it is even braver.
The only child of a single Mom who was deemed unfit to care for her at an early age, Sarah never knew her father and has lived with her maternal Grandmother most of her life. Sarah’s Mom is a haunted, angry woman who trusts no one and has a hard time showing love to her teenage daughter at a time when they need each other most. Still Sarah tries to care for her and visits her Mom daily although their relationship is strained.
Through flashbacks we ultimately learn about Sarah and the reasons for her commitment to celibacy.
The only true friend she had at 12 (young Sarah is played sweetly by Madison Walls) was a sensitive boy named Christopher (a fine job by Cody Linley) who shares her interests in adventure and sword play. They have a secret club, whom other friends frequent, but only Sarah and Chris stay there long after the other kids have left the fort perched up in a tree, doing their homework, talking and dreaming. This friendship grows into something more powerful as they have time to share their innermost thoughts. Chris turns out to be the only one who takes Sarah seriously and believes her when she tells him of the voices she hears when she prays.
As they share their hearts one summer evening, Chris listens intently as Sarah explains virtue as she sees it through her study of Joan of Arc. Sarah explains, “Virginity drives the worshiper closer to God. If one wishes not to stay a virgin, the only acceptable alternative is marriage in a Holy Church.”
The two kids have a frank discussion about virginity and arrive at the correct conclusion—to save themselves for the one they marry.
In this pivotal scene Chris states he wants to save himself for Sarah and asks if she will save herself for him. He asks her to wait for him, a solemn oath is shared between them to save themselves for each other until Sarah’s 18th birthday and on that day they will marry. To seal their commitment, he has made medallions for each to wear around their necks inscribed with the words “I Promise.” They seal this vow with an innocent kiss.
I have not seen this type of scene played more tenderly or candidly by young actors barely the age of 13. Ms Walls and Cody Linley do a fine job showing the strength of character and restraint at a time in their growing-up that most kids on the edge of puberty have a hard time controlling. What an excellent example of respect for the one you love and a great portrayal of how to discuss this tender subject for pre-teens!
For reasons he cannot explain, Chris has to move away with his family suddenly tearing the two youngsters apart. They promise without reserve, that their promise will stay intact. Chris promises Sarah he will come back to her. Now Sarah has kept her promise, enduring humiliating situations, biting comments and sometimes outright hatred because of her celibacy, for five long years.
Questions begin to surface when at the end of her Senior year a new boy in school enters Sarah’s life. Dave (handsome Jake McDorman of Fox TV’s “Quintuplets”) finds Sarah strong, confident, playful and wise beyond her years. When the other kids choose to ridicule her, he finds her interesting. So interesting, in fact, that he decides he will do a human interest article about her for the school paper. They both also sign up for the school play and wind up spending lots of time together. Getting to know Dave brings up feelings that Sarah perceives she shouldn’t have because she has promised to save them for Chris, whom she finds harder to remember as each day passes.
Lurking in the shadows is the sinister presence of Alec (played with complete creepiness by Matt Vondvarka) who snares young girls into his bed only to use them and throw them away like a dirty towel. He has set his eyes upon Sarah, not just for conquest, but the ultimate sexual degradation of a girl sworn to virginity. Alec makes this perfectly clear to the other guys, including Dave, who remains Sarah’s protector even to the bitter end.
Returning to the abandon church each day to pray, Sarah’s prayers ring out on all levels to address the aching questions many teens have today. Crying out she asks…
Why can’t I be good?
Why do I hate my Mother?
Why, when I try to be a good person, do I fail?
Sarah visit’s the local Priest, even though she herself is not Catholic, for reassurance and direction when her feelings and actions are not in alignment with her commitment to God. Like all teenagers she has questions and emotions that sometimes get out of control. Sarah goes to the right place for her answers—she goes to God the only authority—the only true answer to all our problems. Sarah is rightly told that we are not perfect, only Jesus is, that is why we fail but He is there to teach and forgive—that desire is natural. This is a feeling created by God so we are drawn to love others. These feelings are a blessing that must be tempered with prudence. Sex and marriage were created by God as the most fundamental of human relationships. The apostle Paul wrote about the uniquely human aspect of the “one flesh” experience in Ephesians 5:28 “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.”
As Dave interviews Sarah for his story they have a very natural, straight forward discussion about how to answer those who question your decision to stay celibate until marriage. It is another fine example pre-teens and teens can use to back up that decision with solid defense.
Q: Why are you still a virgin?
A: Contrary to public opinion—everyone out there is NOT doing it. I have chosen this path because it is right.
Q: How do you define right?
A: You don’t define it—you KNOW it!
Q: How do you know it’s right?
A: I know in my heart—I have made a promise.
Q: A promise for what?
A: To wait to have sex—to wait for the right him/her.
Q: To wait to have sex with him/her?
A: No! To wait to find him/her, to GET MARRIED and THEN to have sex.
Q: That sounds pretty puritan these days. Where is this special person?
A: Call it what you want. I don’t know where this special person is right now, but they are out there and it will be well worth the wait!
Q: How do you know this special person will show up?
A: Because I have made a promise to God and I know He ALWAYS keeps His promises to me.
As this story embarks on it’s beautiful and thrilling conclusion, we care so much for the characters of Sarah and Dave that when Alec’s menacing agenda is revealed, you have to stop yourself from jumping up to rescue Sarah from his evil plans. Not wanting to make known the ending to this film, I will just say, brace yourself for a tense, consuming ride!
“Echoes of Innocence” has expertly dealt with a touchy subject using the finest set direction, musical score and the best talent in actors who fit into their roles like a glove. This film is real and human, not contrived or over the top. Nathan Todd Sims has taken the subject of celibacy before marriage and presented it to the pre-teen and teen audience in a straight forward honest way using powerful present-day language and enchanting state-of-the-art visuals.
PG-13 is more than appropriate to rate his film. There is language in it that fits everyday life and the many relevant aspects of teen life in the 21st century. The name “Virg” in itself is not a nickname for “Virginia” but meant as a hurtful reference to being virgin. Alec utters the word “whore” twice. Sh** is said once and referred to once by whispering “shhh_t.” “Screw you” and “don’t give me that bull” is also used, but I must add that this is all mild compared to the way most teenagers talk today. There also is a scene where a girl who has been taken advantage of by the Alec character is thrown out of his bedroom half naked and crying, yet we don’t see anything but her back. Sarah’s mother slaps her and out of reflex, Sarah slaps her back, but says she’s sorry immediately afterword and goes to God in prayer for forgiveness.
“Echoes of Innocence” does not sugar coat today’s teen environment. It sums up this realm in an extremely realistic way so that any teen watching it can relate totally with what is going on in the lives of these characters. An “A+,” way to get this message across—meet them on their own turf, right where they live in the real world.
At the same time, as harsh as it gets, the overall theme is love that knows no bounds, friendships for life, respect for family and God, and forgiveness. Spun through this saga is the golden thread of a beautiful, pure and undefiled love story every teen and parent should not miss! I was very moved by the performance of these two young people, so full of passion and honesty. The script allows us time to grow with the characters and to watch them fall in love is a beautiful thing. The story was very well thought out and explored realistically the fact that a vow is a solemn thing requiring courage and strength from our Heavenly Father. Nathan Todd Sims and New World Pictures has given us a smart, current representation of real issues.
Sarah’s strength is not her own, but works through her from her faith in God. Joan of Arc’s strength was blessed to her by keeping the commandment of virginity, much like Sampson’s strength was by keeping his promise to God never to cut his hair. This lesson of faith and commitment is mirrored in the fact that Sarah was in keeping with God’s command of purity before marriage. Although she was put under much strife and ridicule, she reaped a reward far beyond what she had ever imagined. Sarah was able to walk through her trials with dignity when most of the girls around her buckled under the pressure to follow their lusts. By protecting her virginity she kept her self respect and ultimately was able to protect that precious part of herself for her one true partner in life which God had chosen especially for her.
Teenagers need to know and understand what God thinks about human sexuality and how they can make choices that will please Him. Jesus will lead them through Scripture to see God’s plan for them until marriage.
Life is hard and even cruel for pre-teens and teenagers in our current generation. Today’s teens face a new set of demands on their morality that previous generations didn’t have to deal with. I believe this film will help teenagers make life-changing decisions that will give them positive and healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex. Teens can make these resolutions, which focus on God’s plan for sex in marriage—a part of their life to grab onto in times of temptation. “Echoes of Innocence” is unique in this regard, as it not only asks the questions but gives the answers—the right answers!
God has given our teens and pre-teens a beautiful gift, the ability to give and receive love. There are many ways to give and receive love, but God loves us so much that He gave us a special way for a husband and wife to love each other-and that is the gift of sexual intimacy. God wants each one of His children to wait until just the right moment to give the gift of sexual intimacy to one another. “Echoes Of Innocence” challenges kids to obey God’s instructions to remain sexually pure, including staying abstinent until they are married.
Let us pray, thanking God for the gift He has given us in our sexuality, and ask Him to give our children the courage and commitment to remain sexually pure. After prayer, suggest to your children that they consider wearing a token of their commitment such as a promise ring or necklace as a daily reminder of their commitment to God and the future love of their lives, just as Sarah and her true love did in the movie.
With this I pledge my solemn oath -
To reserve my heart for your love only
My mind for your thoughts only
And my body for your touch only
God has revealed in the Bible the wonder and beauty of the sacred covenant of purity before marriage and recognizes that abstinence is an awesome responsibility. He also has given you a line by which to deal with that responsibility: PRAYER.
Pray for the strength to make God first in everything in your life. Pray for the ability and obedience to treat your parents with respect and with the love God has commanded. Pray that you will be honest and truthful in every facet of your life. Ask God to empower you and every friend you meet with the strength to be obedient to God and rely on Him for every need.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: Minor
Read our exclusive personal interview with the Producer/Director Nathan Todd Sims
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
“God intends sex to be a source of satisfaction, honor, and delight to those who enjoy it within the parameters of the moral standards He has established. Biblically speaking, human sexuality is both a gift and a responsibility. At Creation, the gift of sex was among those things God declared to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). What’s more, the sexual relationship is invested with a profound significance in that it brings together a man and a woman within the context of the shared image of God (Gen. 1:27). Because sex is God’s idea, and because it touches the image of God in human life, it is very important that the holiness of sexual behavior be diligently preserved. In fact, sexual behavior is moral only when it is holy (Eph. 1:4; 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3-7; 1 Pet. 1:14-16).”