By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT’S LOVE, KENNEDY ABOUT?
A terminally-ill teen inspires a community with her love and faith in this new film by T.C. Christensen (17 Miracles, Ephraim’s Rescue, The Cokeville Miracle). Based on a true story. (Now playing in Utah. Opens July 14th in Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho)
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)
To see a T.C. Christensen film in a crowded theater is to experience surround-sound sniffling. This powerhouse tear-jerker is sure to inspire you to be a better person. Basing his film on the biography Kennedy’s Hugs, the director filmed on-location at the family’s home and the high school where the events actually took place. With the family helping to guide the script and members of the community playing themselves in supporting roles, there’s feel of authenticity that Hollywoodized “true stories” can’t touch.
Jasen Wade (The Cokeville Miracle) conjures up powerful, raw tenderness as a father who adores his little girl. Heather Beers (Charly) effectively captures the heartbreak and hope of a mother witnessing her child struggle and inspire. Tatum Chiniquy studied video of the real Kennedy and worked with the family to craft a performance that is more than imitation: it’s a recreation that does justice to a real person. The film displays a simple visual beauty that doesn’t draw attention to itself yet serves the story. A few supporting parts aren’t amazingly-acted and a few jokes don’t land, but most of the humor and emotion register strongly. Christensen is to be commended for telling the story as it happened instead of creating melodramatic conflict or watering down the religious elements so vital to Kennedy and her loved ones. Don’t miss it.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Love, Kennedy is rated PG for thematic content involving terminal illness, including images of a deathly sick teen and moments of screaming and seizures. It has no offensive content.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Life is short; do as much good, share as much love, and help as many people as you can. Love and honor your parents. Kindness and compassion can help individuals and families to endure anything. Your actions can inspire positive change in others.
For another fine film about a faithful teen who inspires her community, I recommend Soul Surfer, which you can rent or buy here.