I need to say that Christian movies that are even watchable are rare and contemporary adult Christian movies even more so. This movie should inspire Christians to appreciate and support the efforts of those who try to fill this crying need.
The story centers around a relatively young married couple, a firefighter and a hospital staff member. They are about to divorce and are constantly fighting. Both claim the other is selfish and insensitive and they are certain reconciliation is hopeless. The man’s father steps in with a “Marriage Dare” for his son, to take 40 days to try to woo his wife back. It involves doing nice things for his wife, listening to her, making her dinner, and along the way includes Scriptures and attempts to make the son see his need for Christ.
I objected to the one-sidedness of this challenge, although the reason for it is important later. While there are obvious sins in the man’s life (pornography viewing on the internet, having $24,000 saved for a boat when his wife’s mother needed medical equipment after a stroke), there are sins in the wife’s life as well and they were glossed over or shown as the husband’s fault for neglecting her. She responds to a seducing doctor at her workplace, runs her husband down to her co-workers and deliberately refuses to buy food or even share a pizza with him to make her point that she wants help with the household responsibilities. Even at their reconciliation at the end she forgives him but doesn’t acknowledge that she also needs forgiveness.
Having the father counsel his son about his marriage was great. But some of that was tarnished when the dad admits afterward that his wife came up with the Marriage Dare. He presents it to his son as something he wrote. He justifies this because apparently the son has a problem “respecting” women in general. (He is openly rude to his mother and shuts her out of conversations when she wants to counsel him about his marriage.) I think the father’s misdirection is a flaw in the story. I think this “show me respect” thing is awkward and artificial in the movie. The scene where the wife is confronted by a co-worker about her flirtation with the doctor should have been developed more. You might conclude that this woman was a godly influence whom she had been avoiding (she says they haven’t seen each other in awhile) because she was determined to sin, but that wasn’t clear if it was the case. And she just gets angry at the woman for meddling. There’s no evidence that she is really convicted or made to see her wrongdoing. The way the husband handles the doctor when he discovers the seduction is excellent also, and I give the doctor points for backing off.
There seems to be some humanistic psychology at work in many of the challenges in the 40-day program. I wish more time had been given to what was really important in the couple’s relationship. When the husband breaks his attachment to pornography, that is a graphic change in his attitude. When he gives up the money for the boat to pay for his mother-in-law’s equipment, that was another. There is no real demonstration of such a change in the wife. We are told she is sacrificing to spend her weekends with her parents but all that is shown is her wishing her mother could talk to her about her problems. Her husband is indeed saving lives and training young firefighters, behaving like a hero, while she is flirting and whining.
The crucial concept of the movie is excellent. The dad does an excllent job of bringing his son to see it for himself. God loves us one-sidedly and woos us to Himself patiently and persistently, just as the husband has to woo his wife in spite of her rejections. The dad points out that you can’t love someone when you have no basis for love, when you have no patience or time for the God Who is love. The son has to realize that his efforts are minimal and half-hearted and he is looking to get something in return rather than wholly giving himself to the effort of loving his wife.
The scenes at the firehouse are great. The Christian friend who lives his example before the husband is splendid. He is the most realistic and believable character in the movie. His testimony is unaffected and biblical. I wish he had been given more space in the movie to influence the husband. He is living the Marriage Dare without the affectation and humanistic psychology aspects.