To be clear, the characters of Clay and Amber in Old Fashioned are not perfect. They are flawed, broken people who are doing the best they can in stumbling toward a better way of loving each other… and a better understanding of God’s love for them.
Just like most of us.
It’s a tricky thing whenever you explore religious or spiritual themes in a film and especially so when you get anywhere near the label of being “faith-based” or something along those lines.
Suddenly, there is this odd expectation that the characters in your film are no longer allowed to be human or imperfect; but rather, they must be… examples.
That’s a lot of pressure.
And it’s also one of the reasons that so much criticism is often leveled at faith-based films for not being realistic or dealing with real-world issues in ways that are familiar to the audience.
Honestly, given some of the parameters of this niche… I’m not sure how you could accurately and truthfully make a “faith-based” film about the life of King David… or Abraham and Sarah… or countless other Biblical characters that were deeply, profoundly flawed. I think there would be a great deal of pressure to tidy things up a bit… or leave certain elements out so as to not rock the boat too much… or, possibly, to craft a superior and more appropriate example.
And that would be a shame. Because it is often through brokenness that God does some of His very best work.
Now, just so there is no confusion over what I’m saying here… I’m not saying you would have to be explicit in a film depicting the darker corners of the lives of those Biblical characters… or any characters in any film. In the case of Clay and Amber in Old Fashioned, we’re able to explore some real, grown-up issues in a way that never gets explicit or crosses any lines.
Old Fashioned is rated PG-13 for “thematic material” which translates… real life is messy. And probably a little boring for little kids!
Our film has no coarse language (at all), no explicit sex or violence, and nothing that exploits or degrades the actors. But, it does deal honestly and openly with some relational mistakes and regrets and situations that are very much set in reality and are just as messy and complicated as those found in our own lives.
And still, God’s grace abounds.
Bottom line is, when it comes to film ratings, if you filmed someone at a table who just opened a Bible and starting reading out loud from the Old Testament… that would almost certainly be rated PG-13 for “thematic material.” As it should.
In any event…
It’s more than a little important when making (or watching) a film that includes religious or spiritual themes that we remember and remain open to the indisputable fact that all of us—ALL of us—are still works in progress.
As Aunt Zella says in Old Fashioned…
“None of us fully arrive this side of Heaven.”
There is a deep longing for authenticity and genuine innocence growing in our culture. And the common ground for connecting and sharing the love of Christ with those that are searching is our brokenness… not our perfection (or rather, our imagined perfection).
I mention this because…
With all of the Fifty Shades of Grey hype and comparison with Old Fashioned (which has raised our profile beyond measure and for which I’m sincerely grateful), some might start thinking that we’re positioning ourselves as some kind of Pollyanna or perfect “example” of flawless, unblemished love.
We are not.
The truth is, both stories deal with very broken, wounded protagonists… two men that are isolated, damaged, and emotionally detached.
The difference is in how the protagonists pursue their healing.
It’s not about passing judgment on anyone or anything… it’s about a sincere desire to find paths toward healing and wholeness in a world that often outright ignores the sacred aspect and purpose for which love and romance was created.
And finding those paths, in life and movies (and marketing) can be and often is… messy.
Thank God for His mercy… and for providing us all with the one and only perfect “example” this world has ever seen…