A New Christian Movie (That Might Actually Be Good!)

Rik Swartzwelder and Elizabeth Roberts in “Old Fashioned”

As a die-hard movie buff, I have to be candid and admit that I don’t typically walk away from a Christian film enthusing, “BEST MOVIE EVER!” It’s not that I look down my nose at people who aren’t cinephiles, it’s just who I am and what I like. The truth is, I could quite literally talk all day long about great movies (although it’s better when someone else is actually in the room listening!) I’m one of the only people I know who could watch a Tom Cruise action movie but only get really excited at the Robert Duvall cameo. And if you have no idea who I’m talking about, that’s totally fine. Moving on…

Nonetheless, I still observe the Christian movie industry with hope. And I try to give the trailers for coming Christian film attractions a fair shake. This past month, a little film came out that piqued my interest, and it may pique yours too. It was cleverly marketed as the “anti-Nifty Blades of Hay” (my fake name for the Cult Phenomenon Which Shall Not Be Named, on which you can read more of my thoughts here). The marketing trick worked, and the small film generated a lot more buzz than usual as a result. My question was, is it actually any good? While I have yet to see it myself, I am pleasantly surprised and hopeful based on a few clips and trailers.

The premise is that a shy but sincere Christian man falls in love with the girl upstairs in his building. The man is in his 30s but a relatively new believer. We get the sense that there is more to his past than we’re told at first, but as a result of his newfound faith, he’s committed himself to an almost obsessively old-fashioned model of romance and courtship. This is equal parts charming and frustrating for the girl he’s attracted to. She is not a Christian, but he openly shares his faith with her and encourages her to read the Bible. One of the things I like about the movie from what I’ve seen of it is that it gives both sides of the courtship debate a fair hearing. On the one hand, it celebrates the main character’s desire for old-fashioned romance and chivalry in his relationship. In his words, “When did treating women with respect become the joke? You want to laugh at the idea that love can be something sacred? Go ahead. Laugh.”

On the other hand, it’s not afraid to look honestly at his insecurities, or to put tough criticism in the mouths of good characters with his best interests at heart. (I can tell already that the hard-hitting old aunt is going to be my favorite: “Play time is over. Be a man!”) Unlike the relationships in some Christian films, this one seems to evolve in a very human, un-forced way. Both characters bring baggage to the relationship. Both characters learn to be honest with themselves and each other. While Old Fashioned does have a message, in some ways it feels more like a low-key independent flick than a “message” movie.

Here’s a short video where writer/director/lead Rik Swartzwelder talks about the heart behind the film. Unfortunately, this guy has not been blessed with the most trustworthy face, but he seems to have many good ideas in this movie!

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