I wasn't sure what to make of Old Fashioned, tagged as the alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. What did that mean? I knew I wasn't looking forward to the "based on a bestseller" real-world fantasy flick, but would Old Fashioned be filled with preachy dialogue about old-fashioned values or would it actually be a film that told a story about understanding love? I hunkered down one day to give the Valentine's Day flick written by, produced by, and starring Rik Swartzwelder (who I interviewed here)... and found myself amazed by the way that the story unfolded.
In the beginning, Amber (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) flees as far as she can before the gas in her car runs out, and ends up renting space from furniture-restoring Clay (Swartzwelder), who's "old-fashioned" views of dating make courtship matter in ways that most people don't consider these days. But Amber is persistent, and soon the paths of both of them prove to be more "God-ordained" than "star-crossed." In the process, they find out what each other are really about, how they've been hurt, and how they might be part of each other's growing process.
The film is more nuanced than you might expect: Amber and Clay's friends fill out a spectrum of advice, personalities, and issues. Brad (Tyler Hollinger) is a shock-jock radio personality, while David (LeJon Woods) is happily engaged but less sure of himself than Clay. Trish (Lindsay Heath) and Carol (Maryanne Nagel) have serious questions about the kind of guy Clay is given his past history with a knockoff of Girls Gone Wild. Both of them have an honorable take on other people from their pasts (not blaming them, but taking responsibility) and that shows us the integrity lying beneath the surface. When it all comes down to it: this is about Clay and Amber figuring out who they are as individuals and deciding whether they are supposed to be together to be something else, too.
But there's tension here that's undeniable, mostly due to the temptation that both of them will experience along the way. In a way, it's even more gripping than the average slasher "look out behind you!" film, because Swartzwelder sets us up to actually care about Clay and Amber. We want him to loosen up (a little) and for her to settle down (but keep challenging him to live his faith). In the process, we experience the struggle, and wrestle with our own decisions and our own potential journey to establish mores that represent what God is calling people to follow.
Old Fashioned covers a lot of ground (and isn't for younger audiences), much the way that The Songdid last year: past mistakes, divorce, sex, peer pressure, sin, doubt, the Bible's role, marriage, dating, and so much more. It's certainly a film that holds a mirror up to our values and asks us to consider whether they're what's best for us, holding up hope that we're made for something greater than casual, shallow intimacy or throwaway relationships, and acknowledging that even after those damaged moments, God can work a restorative purpose in our lives then, too.