If the story behind Come What May—the fact that it was produced by a fledgling micro-budget film company that trains homeschooled Christian kids to make professional-quality movies—were its most appealing aspect, that in itself would be enough to warrant, at some level, checking out this film.
Happily, the film rises to the level of that meta-story—and exceeds it—so that watching Come What May becomes much more than an exercise in checking out ground-breaking developments in Christian-motivated independent filmmaking. The production values are generally quite good—not quite up to Sherwood’s Facing the Giants or Fireproof level (and certainly not Pureflix’s over-glossy efforts, Hidden Secrets and The Wager) but notably better than other first efforts such as the Cloud Ten-distributed Treasure Blind or even the original Flywheel. And it’s especially helpful to know that much of the film was crewed by students who have yet to earn their GEDs.
The story is perhaps the most intriguing part, and is set in Virginia’s Patrick Henry College, nationally known for its national-level legal debating prowess. First-time film actors Austin Kearney and Victoria Emmons play Caleb and Rachel, two Moot Court team members thrown together to argue the Roe vs. Wade case in the national competition. Caleb has transferred to Patrick Henry specifically for training in the legal field, and his skeptic mother will only agree to a further year of tuition if his team wins the championship—so he’s less than excited to argue the case in a fashion that’s sure to lose. Rachel, on the other hand, as well as the rest of the team, wants to argue the case on a specifically moral (and decidedly conservatively Christian) merits.
To top it all off, Caleb’s dad Don is a noted biologist who has taken an unpopular stand on the issue of when life actually begins. He and wife Judith, a workaholic trial lawyer who nabs a plum assignment arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court, spar not only over Caleb’s professional future and schooling, but the very fabric of their marriage.
Many of the ways in which yeoman writer/director Manny Edwards’ script works out the details of the plot seem overly familiar; but the basic setting of the story is so fresh and original, I expect most viewers will find that they don’t mind the sometimes wooden performances and less-than-seamless audio editing. And while I found much of the Pro-Life argumentation in the film overly facile, I genuinely enjoyed the chance to screen a film on the subject of abortion that wasn’t 100% based on appeals to emotion.
Husband-and-wife veteran acting team Karen and Ken Jezek also turn in genuinely appealing performances as Caleb’s folks, and Kearney and Emmons generate some real puppy-love chemistry as Caleb and Rachel. The story of how the two young actors won the parts, as documented in the DVD’s making-of featurette, is itself pretty interesting.
A Vision for Filmmaking
In fact, the most compelling thing on this DVD is the “Making of AFG” featurette. Advent Film Group is the brainchild of veteran producer George Escobar, and is a program dedicated to "raising the next generation of Christian filmmakers… today"—and whether you agree with the idea that Christian filmmakers need to be trained differently than non-Christian filmmakers, and whether you buy Escobar’s rather glib assessment of Michael Apted, Andrew Adamson, and Catherine Hardwicke as non-Christians, there’s no mistaking that he’s on to something with an emphasis on "epistemologically self-conscious, Christ-glorifying, culture-transforming filmmaking." Come What May is a fine, fine start that yields pretty satisfying results, and I for one will be very interested to see what comes of Escobar’s vision ten years down the line.
I have to guess that this DVD will prove an inspiration for all sorts of budding filmmakers. AFG isn’t the only outfit incorporating the efforts of homeschoolers these days—but “Making of AFG” might provide more of a how-to blueprint than other DVDs you might come across.
This is not the most stunning of filmmaking, but it’s certainly commendable and entertaining—even educational.
The film is scheduled for release on March 17, and is available through ChristianCinema.com, among other online outlets.
Come What May is not rated but is easily G material. That being said, don’t expect younger kids to be much interested in the film. Any family with teens, though, will probably get a good deal out of it—and perhaps more challenging conversation than they bargained for!
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of "Come What May."
Greg Wright is Managing Editor of both Past the Popcorn and Hollywood Jesus. An ordained pastor, Greg is the author of Tolkien In Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter (2003) and Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema’s The Lord of the Rings (2004). A widely-known lecturer on Tolkien, Lewis, film, and fantasy, Greg resides in the Seattle area with his precious wife Jenn and their two cats, Grynne and Bearrett.