Copyright, Universal Pictures
Today’s Prayer Focus
MOVIE REVIEW

Redeeming Love

MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for mature thematic content, sexual content, partial nudity, and strong violent content.

Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive (Not Recommended)
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Western Romance Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 14 min.
Year of Release:
2022
USA Release:
January 21, 2022 (wide release)
DVD: March 8, 2022
Copyright, Universal Picturesclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures =
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Betrayal by a mother of her child

Sexual exploitation of girls / sex trafficking

Sexual molestation, abuse and rape

Life during 1850s California gold rush

Read the true story of the Biblical man Hosea and his book

About Hosea’s wife Gomer

Read the book of Hosea

Copyright, Universal Pictures

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action?

Copyright, Universal Pictures

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it?

Copyright, Universal Pictures

About prostitution in the Bible

What does it mean to be LASCIVIOUS? Answer

There is nothing wrong with sex between husband and wife; unless it’s a couple watching another husband and wife having it.

Sexual abuse of girls and women by evil men and women

Rape victims’ stories

Shame and rape

What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer

About the fall of mankind to worldwide DEPRAVITY

Guilt and self-loathing

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Sexual lust outside of marriage—Why does God strongly warn us about it?

Nudity—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes?

Fornication and adultery

Forced abortion and sterilization of a woman

Life Before BirthHave questions about life before birth, or a woman’s choices about pregnancy and abortion? Discover reliable answers.

Forgiveness

FORGIVEN?—How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

GUILT—If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer

About despair, fear and hope

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Purity—Should I save and protect God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage?

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.
Featuring Abigail CowenAngel
Tom LewisMichael Hosea
Famke JanssenDuchess
Logan Marshall-GreenPaul
Nina DobrevMae
Eric DaneDuke
Livi Birch … Sarah Stafford
Brandon Auret … Magowan
Jamie-Lee O'Donnell … Lucky
See all »
Director D.J. Caruso—“xXx: Return of Xander Cage” (2017), “Taking Lives” (2004)
Producer Geyer Kosinski … Executive Producer
Roma Downey … Executive Producer
See all »
Distributor Distributor: Universal Pictures. Trademark logo.Universal Pictures

Lasciviousness on bold display with unnecessary sexual content that somehow failed to earn a R-rating

“You can leave behind what you were born into, to become who God wants you to be.” This is the intended message of “Redeeming Love,” the film adaptation of a popular novel by author Francine Rivers. The book is beloved by many Christian women for its depiction of a man who looks beyond a woman’s deeply troubled past and loves her unconditionally. The novel is loosely based upon the life of the prophet Hosea, a man called by God to marry a serial adulteress.

Q & A

What is one of the major differences between this film’s story and the Biblical record of the prophet Hosea’s marriage?

When God told Hosea to marry Gomer, she may well have been chaste at first, but later became unfaithful and left Hosea for other men—whereas this film is about an innocent girl sold into prostitution, the victim of a long line of evil people, and who eventually adopts this filthy and depraved life. Hosea was faithful and loyal, while Gomer broke their marriage covenant and became a repeated adulteress. Their marriage became a living symbol of Israel’s relationship with God; they were spiritually unfaithful (idolators), whereas God was always faithful and demonstrated his love and kept his covenant.

I have never read the source novel, but it has a very devoted following who praise it for its biblical message of redemption no matter the darkness and degradation of one’s past. Some even call it “the most influential fiction book I have ever read.” Many women have been waiting years to see these characters portrayed on film, and I imagine that ladies’ Bible study groups will be lined up at the theaters to see the book brought to life. Unfortunately, it is the “bringing to life” of a story filled with abuse, prostitution, rape, sexual tension, marital intimacy, and adultery that may make this movie unsuitable for many viewers.

Abigail Cowan plays the beautiful but devastatingly broken “Angel,” a young prostitute whose life has been filled with pain, loss and abuse from almost every man she has ever encountered. Early in her life, she is told that God will never help her and that men will only use her. In a series of flashbacks, we see the abuse which has brought Angel to her current state of empty bitterness. Her days at the brothel in the boisterous town Pair-a-Dice are spent pleasuring customer after customer, with scores of men taking part in a lottery drawing for just 30 minutes alone with her. In her time off work, she and her fellow prostitutes drink in an attempt to dull the unpleasantness of their lives.

Meanwhile, Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis) is an endearing young farmer seeking God’s will for his life and future. After asking for a sign, Michael comes to believe that God wants him to marry Angel, although at first he does not know she is the most sought-after and costly prostitute in this gold rush town. Even after learning of her profession, Michael is undaunted and makes it his mission to convince Angel to leave the brothel and come to his farm as his wife. Unconvinced that Michael could really love someone like her, Angel finds it difficult to leave the past behind.

Although the actor playing Michael did well in his role and is a very appealing person, we don’t really see enough of his motivation or calling for this task to make him believable. We see moments of prayer and Bible reading, but never quite the drive to take not only an unbelieving but also a mostly unwilling wife.

Learn how to better share your faith in Christ
Learn how to be more effective in evangelism
ChristianAnswers’ Effective Evangelism section assists believers in effectively reaching out to others with love and truth. Learn about the worldview of the people you meet, ways to share the gospel, read stories submitted by site users, and more.

Angel’s hollowness and despair is difficult to watch, just as it can be with anyone who is hopeless and lost. I kept waiting for the Gospel to be presented to Angel, but instead there were just some nice-sounding inspirational quotes and vague references to God. Although Michael shares with her that she did not choose her path and that the past does not define her, he never explains that Jesus is the One who can make her a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). [What does it mean to become a NEW CREATION)? Answer]

Instead it seems that the movie focuses on Michael’s capacity for unconditional love and forgiveness, rather than on Christ’s. For a movie called “Redeeming Love” taken from a supposedly Biblically-based source novel, I had hoped that there would be more credit given to the redeeming work of Christ through His sacrificial death and resurrection, rather than just on the goodness of a kind-hearted man.

Although cross emblems are shown, and God is referenced several times, Jesus is not. I fear that the exclusivity of the Gospel may have left the moviemakers afraid to take that one extra step that can lead people beyond a surface faith (“help me God”) to an authentic saving faith (“save me Jesus”). Sadly, we do not see the latter in this film.

An unbeliever will not come away from this movie knowing that Jesus is the only way to God and the sole path to redemption (John 14:6). And a believer will come away perhaps feeling edified by the redemptive message, but having placed before his or her eyes a great deal of sensual content which can certainly lead to lust, stumbling, or painful memories for those who have suffered sexual abuse.

We are living in a society that is absolutely saturated by sex and nudity. If one wants to guard his or her eyes, that person must be intentional and pro-active about doing so. It is possible that many have become so desensitized to the overt sexual imagery they see daily that the scenes in “Redeeming Love” will not even seem problematic, or will even be considered tasteful by comparison to the usual Hollywood fare. In doing this review, I must not think of what society says about sexuality and sensual images, but what God’s Word says about this subject. I must also consider every possible area of stumbling for potential viewers.

It will be hard for most men to see the amount of extreme cleavage, bare skin, and sensual poses and situations that are depicted onscreen without inciting lustful desire. We are told in Matthew 5:28 by Jesus Himself that looking at a woman to lust for her is committing adultery in one’s heart. It is ironic that the sexual purity of Michael is portrayed as being a good quality, yet at the same time the fleshly desires of viewers will be inflamed by what is seen onscreen.

It can be likewise for women as well, both due to the amount of partial nudity displayed by both genders but also including emotional longing for a seemingly “perfect man” like Michael. A woman’s desire is to be for her husband, not for an idealized male character in a romance book or film. It has been said that the romance genera can be like “pornography for women,” stirring up sexual fantasies and a desire to feel completely loved by an unrealistic, ideal man.

Some have said about this movie, “You have to show the bad so we can see the change in a character! We need to see reality instead of sugar-coating it! It’s worth seeing some bad stuff as long as people hear the good message!”

Viewers may use this to justify seeing a movie filled with sensual imagery. But it is clear that there are limits people are willing to accept, even if a message is a very good one. Most Christians would not suggest seeing an explicitly graphic porn film even if the characters hear the Gospel and are gloriously redeemed in the end. And I hope we all agree that viewers would be upset if the sexual violation of pre-pubescent girls was SHOWN in this film, instead of just implied. So we all agree that there is a limit, and at some point a Christian must say, “That is too much!” But where is this limit? What one considers acceptable could still be unacceptable to another. This is the issue with “Redeeming Love.” Do we really need to see what is shown?

Content of concern

LANGUAGE: There is some coarse language, including “My God,” “piss,” “damn,” “go to hell,” “ass” and several uses of “whore” and “bitch.” Crude terms for sex include “shagging,” being used as a “mattress hole,” and other sexual innuendo.

VIOLENCE: There is brutal violence in the film. Characters are involved in fist fights, beaten, murders, strangled with wire, stabbed, held underwater, hanged, woman grabbed by the throat, arson resulting in death and more. Blood, bruising and dead bodies are shown. Someone commits suicide with a gun. Rape attempts are made, and violation of little girls is referenced, implied and also heard offscreen. Abortion is mentioned a few times, and a doctor gets out the tools to perform an abortion (and permanent sterilization) on a woman who is being held down and protesting. A woman scrapes herself violently with stones while bathing.

SEX/NUDITY: Multiple brothel scenes include lewd dancing, women in very revealing dresses seducing men, and bawdy talk. Men are seen pulling up their pants after illicit sex. Sexual tension is a pervasive theme.

Angel is shown fully nude at great length and multiple times but with the most graphic nudity avoided by camera angles and her own hair (but sides of her breasts are shown, bare back, etc.). She is often seen lying in provocative poses on the bed, with bare or stockinged legs parted or lifted.

In attempts to seduce Michael, she moves sensually and invitingly, presses her chest against him, and opens her robe or blankets. Michael is shirtless in a few scenes. There are several passionate kisses and two sex scenes with movement, facial expressions and sounds.

Little girls are kept as sex slaves (nothing is shown but we hear their screams and crying as they are presumably from being raped). A depraved man strokes a child’s cheek and face suggestively. Sickening incest and adultery are both strongly implied but not seen onscreen. Sexual themes and talk absolutely permeate this film.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL: Characters smoke (cigarettes, pipes, and cigars), drink hard liquors, and are shown intoxicated.

Despite many cautions, the film has some clear strengths. Forgiveness and unconditional love are lifted up as virtues. Relevant issues such as sex slavery and child abuse are addressed. The setting and production values hold their own, with some strong acting by the leads. The use of Lauren Daigle’s song “Rescue” is powerful and moving.

I understand and appreciate what the author and director were trying to show in this film, but I feel that it carries too much problematic imagery that will overshadow its message, and too little of the REAL redemptive power of Christ.

Let me be clear and say plainly what the film does not say… anyone can be redeemed from brokenness and made whole and new, but this can come ONLY through the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus.

To those who are reading this, please know that no matter what you have done, you have worth and value to our Lord. He wants to redeem you, and He is the only one who has the power to do so. No amount of trying to fix yourself and no human love no matter how fierce can do that for you. It is more than just calling on God to help you, but accepting the Savior that God has already sent.

There are certainly “worse” movies out there, but here we have one considered to be a “Christian film.” And unfortunately, I cannot recommend “Redeeming Love” for Christian audiences. Those who are planning to see this movie will need to prayerfully consider its very strong sensual content and ask themselves, “Is it right to set this before my eyes, or to encourage others to do so by my example?”

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” —Psalms 119:37 ESV

I will set no vile thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me. —Psalm 101:3 ESV

  • Sex: Heavy
  • Nudity: Heavy
  • Violence: Heavy
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Moderately Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderate
  • Profane language: Mild
  • Occult: None
Recommended streaming video about this film
“When it comes to the question of the redemptive value of sex scenes, watch to see why I think many Christians are missing the point when it comes to REDEEMING LOVE.”
Video by Alisa Childers, a follower of Jesus Christ
Length: 11 minutes
Editor’s Note: Also keep in mind that in the production of this film, actresses were paid to be naked or nearly so, performing for hours in front of a film crew. Women and men were instructed and coached to behave in realistically lascivious and erotic ways and act out intimate activities. Filthy, deeply dark and depraved sins are center stage in discussions or simulated for the camera and/or microphones. In our opinion, as former Christian filmmakers of many years, the makers of this film crossed lines that are not okay.

Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions

cinema tickets. ©  Alexey SmirnovEvery time you buy a movie ticket or buy or rent a video you are in effect casting a vote telling Hollywood, “I’ll pay for that. That’s what I want.” Read our article

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—This is a good story, but don’t take the church youth group to see it. It is based on the book of Hosea, but just a little. It shows partial nudity, with the female’s hair placed to cover a little. Sex scenes are too much, even though they always have their clothes covering them. That said, the movie is good and it is mild compared to a lot of movies. Don’t expect to go with your children and feel comfortable.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Lynelle, age 65 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—The movie was very close to the book. I actually enjoyed the movie other than the intimate sequel scenes. I was extremely disappointed that there were sex scenes and a few curse words. As a Christian movie, I was hoping they wouldn’t fall into a secular pitfall. They could have made the scenes less graphic and to where you knew what was happening without the literal sex. There was several scenes of nudity as well. You did not see anything private, but there were close ups of a nude woman with her hair covering private areas. The curse words used were not “severe,” but it was not necessary to even have them included in the film. Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but I probably will not watch it again. I’ll just stick with reading the book.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Lauren, age 32 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Storyline was good, but rating was very wrong!! Was at least a R-rated movie! Was very disappointed, lots of nudity!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
Myrna Walp, age 67 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…“Redeeming Love” is a kinky power fantasy in the halfway convincing disguise of wholesome faith-based entertainment. …
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
…Think “Little House on the Prairie” on Cialis. … “Redeeming Love” is like the most expensive community theatre production you’ve ever seen. The acting is just not there. … [1½/5]
Sarah Jane, The Austin Chronicle
…[Director] Caruso treats the love story with approximately the same delicacy and good taste he brought to his last outing, “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage” …the ensuing character-testing romance is awash with superficial references to the Old Testament book of the same name, minus any allegorical reflection on the relationship between God and Israel. …Cowen’s headstrong screen presence and Lewis’ puppy-dog charm never combine into actual chemistry…
Guy Lodge, Variety
…Even fans of Rivers’ beloved Christian romance aren’t likely to think that this uninspired, overlong adaptation does the sweeping story justice. …
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
…Yet another dull and dusty romance adaptation… this one in particular magnifies why some stories are better kept on the page than brought to theaters. …not only incredibly boring, it’s void of allure. …it's not put together in a way that makes the audience remotely care or feel engaged with the story or principal players. … [1½/5]
Sarah El-Mahmoud, Cinema Blend
…long-winded Old West love yarn… the film plays like a highlight reel of barely-connected moments rather than a smooth narrative. …the scattershot story slips away like gold flakes from a prospector’s pan, eluding redemption of a squandered opportunity.
Phil Villarreal, WCPO Cincinnati
…There may be gold in them thar hills, but “Redeeming Love” doesn’t yield any cinematic riches. …
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service