There's something different about the latest Pure Flix Original Film God's Country Song.
It's a little bit more real than I expected.
It's a little bit grittier. It's a little bit more willing to delve into the darknesses that can envelope us and the challenges that we can so easily face along the faith journey. I mean, sure, you'll never for a moment forget that God's Country Song is a faith-based film but it's a faith-based film that also reminds us that living a life of faith isn't some carved in stone guarantee that life's going to be beautiful and perfect and everything we've ever dreamed it would be.
God's Country Song is, if anything, a reminder that being a Christian doesn't exempt us from life's challenges it just guarantees us that God's going to keep showing up for us day after day after day.
The story centers around Noah (Justin Gaston), an up-and-coming country crooner seemingly on the verge of a major breakthrough. He's got a "guy next door" charm, a velvet voice, and a charisma that immediately draws you in.
Noah also has, as you might guess, a bit of a past including an estranged relationship with his parents Sara (Mariel Hemingway) and Jeremiah (John Laughlin) and a drinking problem that could potential derail his big opportunity to tour with Colt Young (Coffey Anderson) if his manager (Christopher Michael) can't keep him on the straight and narrow.
Oh, and yeah, he also learns that he's got a 4-year-old son, JJ (JJ Miller), who enters his life following the death of his mother with whom Noah appears to have had a bit of a one-night stand.
If you've ever sat yourself down and listened to a country tune, then you're likely thinking to yourself already that this sounds like it has the makings of a classic country tune. Indeed, it really does. God's Country Song gets a little bit grittier than we're used to with faith-based films. Director Johnny Remo (A Letter to Dad, Saved by Grace) doesn't really hold back when showing Noah's drinking or his occasional volatile behavior. There's nothing graphic or obscene here - far from it. However, Remo also doesn't shy away from showing us that Noah's a bit of a troubled guy who's made some bad choices and even as he slowly turns back toward his faith his life doesn't miraculously turn itself around. He has to surrender. And surrender again.
Gaston's a charmer here. An experienced singer, Gaston truly possesses a believable country music voice and a guy next door charm. Gaston allows Noah to be complex, both vulnerable enough that we know he's wounded yet cocky enough that we believe he likely set aside most of what he believed in to chase his country music fame. He's not a bad guy. He's just a complex human being.
The basic framework of God's Country Song is familiar, though Remo does a nice job of taking it into some interesting spaces and bringing this story to life in thought-provoking and engaging ways. The script by Daniel Backman and Remo is emotionally honest with moments of intense drama bridged by a light, honest humor.
Mariel Hemingway is always a welcome presence and the same is true here as Sara, whose maternal spirit is alive and well even though her son has largely rejected the farm life he left behind and the father with whom unresolved conflicts still exist. That father, poignantly portrayed by John Laughlin, could have easily been a one-note presence here yet is so much more.
Christopher Michael always adds depth to everything he does and he infuses his Larry with both ambition and compassion. Coffey Anderson also shines as the country music vet who takes a liking to Noah and recognizes qualities even Noah doesn't recognize.
As seems to always be the case in a film like this, there's a bit of a love interest. Justene Alpert is warm and winning as Leanne, who assumed JJ's care and remains very protective of him. Speaking of which, young JJ Miller is an absolute winner here.
God's Country Song is definitely one of my favorite Pure Flix Originals to date since I amped up my reviewing of the faith-based and family streamer's offerings. As someone who's lived a rather gritty life, I found myself immersed in the story's honest and appreciating Remo's ability to tell a gritty story without ever compromising faith.
Currently available exclusively on Pure Flix, God's Country Song teaches valuable lessons about grace, forgiveness, second chances, and the simple fact that it's never too late. With a beautifully told story and a strong ensemble, God's Country Song hits all the right notes.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic