Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
Betrayal by a mother of her child
Sexual exploitation of girls / sex trafficking
Sexual molestation, abuse and rape
Life during 1850s California gold rush
About Hosea’s wife Gomer
Read the book of Hosea
For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action?
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it?
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
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer
Guilt and self-loathing
Sexual lust outside of marriage—Why does God strongly warn us about it?
Nudity—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes?
Forced abortion and sterilization of a woman
Purity—Should I save and protect God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage?
Abigail Cowen … Angel
Tom Lewis … Michael Hosea
Famke Janssen … Duchess
Logan Marshall-Green … Paul
Nina Dobrev … Mae
Eric Dane … Duke
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)|
Geyer Kosinski … Executive Producer
Roma Downey … Executive Producer
See all »
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions
Every 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.