Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review of "Fireproof"

Fireproof- coming to theatres September 26th
A prominent couple married for seven years realize they are heading towards divorce. He is a firefighter who has his eye on an expensive boat, and an addiction to internet smut, she is a PR person for a major hospital with her eye on a charming doctor. They don’t speak, except to argue, neither feels any love for the other. He feels like the whole world values his heroism except his wife. She is humiliated by his pornography addiction and insensitivity to her mother’s needs for a new wheelchair and hospital bed. Her friends say it’s time to get rid of him, and move on. She makes up her mind to file for divorce. Is there any hope for this marriage? Why should the couple try to save their marriage if the love is gone and there are no children to be hurt?
The startling assertion of “Fireproof” is in its tag line, “never leave your partner behind”. No matter what the conditions of the fire, you bring your partner with you. You may get burned, but you make sure your partner emerges from that fire safely. Caleb, (Kirk Cameron) is the husband who just wants peace. His father however assures him that not all peace is equal, and gives him a book he wrote called, “The Love Dare”. It is a 40 day program of loving acts to do for one’s estranged spouse in order to repair an ailing marriage. Caleb reluctantly puts the book’s suggestions into practice, but assures his father that it’s a hopeless cause, and warns him against talking about Jesus with him. Caleb wants to hear none of his parents’ newfound Christian faith; he says “it’s not for me”.
At first, Catherine is taken aback by her husband’s unusual behavior; he’s buying her flowers, cleaning up around the house, and bringing her coffee. She girlfriends warn her he’s just ‘buttering you up for a divorce’, so, to protect herself, she takes the first step of calling a lawyer. Caleb is crushed and wants to give up on “The Love Dare”,’ it’s over’, he tells his father. How could he, as an unbeliever, know how the powerful prayers of his parents and friend at the firehouse, could change hardened hearts?
“Fireproof” is a powerfully counter-cultural film in an age where Christians have a similar divorce rate to unbelievers and the relevance of marriage is under attack. Caleb’s dogged persistence in performing acts of love without feeling love or receiving any sign of their effectiveness in changing Catherine’s heart, seem unrealistic at best, if not downright irrational. Catherine’s hostile response seems to confirm the common assumption that once the love is gone, the marriage is over. But halfway through the forty days of trial, Caleb meets another Man whose love was rejected. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He meets Jesus Christ, who, while we were still sinners, died to save us. The powerful use of symbols, 40 days, firefighter partners, the large wooden cross in the woods, make this an intensely personal movie for married couples in the audience, inviting comparisons of one’s own marriage to that of Caleb and Catherine.

“Fireproof”, written and directed by the Kendrick brothers whose low budget sleeper hit “Facing the Giants” made an astounding $10 million, find themselves with a larger budget ($250K) and the backing of a major studio (SONY Pictures faith based division, Provident Films) for this film. Their didactic methods are subtler, and more effective than the somewhat predictable “Giants”. Nail-biting action scenes, comic relief characters, a lush natural setting, and a moving score make “Fireproof” a film which should appeal to an even larger audience.
Many film critics decry the obvious agenda of their films, but the Kendrick brothers view filmmaking as a ministry, not a profession: the book “The Love Dare” will be available in the same leather-bound edition used in the film. “Fireproof”, though means of a familiar, engrossing story, teaches this generation, many of whom are the children of divorce, about the covenantal nature of marriage, and sacrificial love.
As a Catholic, the only feature of the story which bothered me was that, after seven years of marriage, the lack of children was never discussed. In “Facing the Giants” the couple’s infertility was seen as a source of suffering, in “Fireproof”, children seemed extraneous to the marriage. Catholic teaching that marriage must be faithful and fruitful indicates that this was one of the marriage’s major flaws, and mentioning this would have helped delineate the selfishness of the couples’ lifestyle.
Nothing offensive in this film, even references to indecent content on the internet were subtly handled; the PG rating was for the tense rescue scenes, heated arguments, and mature subject matter (not ‘adult’, just not for young children who might be upset or simply bored). Highly recommended for adolescents adults who want to grow up and learn to live for others.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Leticia for that thorough and thoughtful review. I haven't seen the movie yet but planning to. I want to support movies with a positive message especially one that promotes Christ, the author and perfector of our faith. I am not a Catholic but agree with you whole-heartedly that many believers have bought into the lie that we have the right to control how many children we have and that children are somehow seen as a burden rather than a blessing from God. My faith has so increased and I have been freed from the fear that I will lose myself by having so many children, 5 so far! In fact that is what Christ has called us to, dying to self!

Keep up the good work!

Caryn Bennett

Anonymous said...

We just saw the movie this Sunday as a family. We're not Catholic, but LCMS Lutheran, so our views on family actually line up pretty well.

While watching the movie, I thought, "how can there be no kids?", but I reached this conclusion: The movie was quite long and complicated as it is, and I don't know how that (important piece) could be included in the correct depth without making it a miniseries.

I don't think they were left out for any other reason than to focus on the root cause of many marriage problems: misunderstanding what love, married love, actually IS.

My $.02.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."