Just this weekend, I decided to watch A Walk to Remember with my friend. Both of us had talked about how much we loved the movie as jr. high and high schoolers, and although somewhat doubtful if we would still enjoy it, we decided to grab some popcorn, blankets, and buckle down for a good cry. Admittedly, we found we still enjoyed it (although we talked through the majority of the film) and still got teary-eyed at the ending. Amidst our conversation, we were struck by the memory of this film’s release and the response it received by Christians.
When A Walk to Remember came out in 2002 it was viewed as the edgy, angsty, new teen movie. For those of you that don’t remember, the story centers around Jamie Sullivan and her life/faith. She is the quintessential Christian girl– quiet, non-dating, non-smoking, non-drinking, non swearing, listens to Rachael Lampa, wears denim jumpers, and has a pastor as a father. Yes, that’s harsh, but as a fellow Christian girl, I am well-acquainted with this unfortunate stereotype. Yet, Jamie Sullivan is a character the audience loves. She is good, kind, and pure. She is unselfconscious, and has a servant’s heart. And she stands in contrast to the rest of the teenagers represented. Which brings me to– Landon Carter, the male lead. He embodies nearly everything that Jamie is not. Hard-hearted cynical, selfish, uncommitted, and reckless, he is the school rebel and icon. And… of course, they end up together.
The journey in which their two worlds collide is actually portrayed well. Yes, there are elements where everything works out “too perfectly” (as many things do in the world of screenplays), but as a whole, we see a genuine change occur in Landon as he is confronted with the beauty that is Jamie’s life. What is interesting, is that this is portrayed fairly realistically. Landon and his buddies begin the film with swearing, drinking, and innuendoes, and by the end he has slowly changed into a different sort of person.
What amazes me was the response of Christians to this film. Christians, in general, really enjoyed this movie. Yes, we as an audience, never find out if Landon “gets saved” or has a conversion moment– but we see his life change so much that we can’t help but think that he has adopted some sort of faith. Christians loved this. Christians also never hesitated to show their teens this movie, despite the smoking, drinking, language, and innuendos. Real life didn’t scare everyone away. The show portrayed unbelievers realistically. Oftentimes, movies portray all unbelievers as unhappy and unfulfilled in their life– which is not true. Or they show them so incredibly depraved that even the most unfaithful Christian portrayed is in stark contrast– again, this is not a true portrayal either. A Walk to Remember may have been a cheesy, chick-flick, but they got a lot of things right.
Here’s what confuses me, though. Let’s look at Facing the Giants. Now, I know this movie was produced by a church on a low budget, and can’t really compare with the quality and finances of Hollywood– yet, I know more Christians that despise Facing the Giants, than, do A Walk to Remember. This is amazing to me– especially since the latter has at least twelve s-words. My question is: What did Hollywood get right here? Is it the honest portrayal of unbelievers? Is it the portrayal of Christians having to live in the real world (and not just with other believers)? Why does a movie produced by unbelievers handle the issues of life and human nature better than a movie produced by Christians?