You've seen films like I Still Believe a thousand times before.
Two people, impossibly perfect together, fall in like and fall in love and prepare for a lifetime together.
That's the essence of the story at the heart of I Still Believe, sibling filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin's latest faith-based feature that brings to life the story that not everyone knows about Indiana native and Christian music mega-star Jeremy Camp.
Adapted from Camp's autobiography of the same name, which is also the title of one of his biggest songs, I Still Believe is an unabashed weeper of a film filled with such an aw shucks goodness that if you're willing to give your heart to it, and I was, you'll find yourself experience a couple hours of faith renewal, tender romance, entertaining music, and the realization that faith really becomes faith when we're challenged to say I Still Believe when our plans are disrupted and life doesn't go our way.
If you shy away from faith-based motion pictures, I Still Believe may not necessarily be the film that's going to change your mind but there's little denying that the Erwin brothers have snagged themselves a top-notch cast to bring the story of Jeremy and his wife Melissa to life.
Jeremy (KJ Apa, Riverdale) and Melissa (Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland, For the People) meet at Calvary Chapel Bible College, a California college Jeremy attends after leaving behind Lafayette, Indiana and his living parents (Gary Sinise and Shania Twain). Jeremy's talent is already quite obvious and he quickly finds a mentor in one of the college's alums, Christian singer Jean-Luc La Joie (Nathan Parsons, Roswell, New Mexico). There's the makings of potential conflict when both take a shine to Melissa, though the conflict is timid even by your usual faith-based flick standards. There's never much of a doubt that it's Jeremy and Melissa who belong together and even if you don't know their story it'll be impossible to ignore their undeniable chemistry.
Of course, there will be a few detours along the way.
I Still Believe may keep its romance chaste by Hollywood's usual standards, but there's a pretty magnificent romanticism that comes to life in the film with one scene, in particular, guaranteed to turn faith-based couples watching the film into cuddlebugs.
Go ahead. Say it. Cuddlebugs.
If you don't know the story, rest assured it's not going to be shared here despite the fact that far too many reviews have spilled the beans and spoiled the impact of this little gem of a film. Suffice it to say that tragedy does, indeed, strike and Jeremy and Melissa persevere. As many of us have learned at times in life, sometimes persevering doesn't change the course of our lives other than to help us see through a different lens and to somehow keep believing anyway.
KJ Apa and Britt Robertson are delightful as Jeremy and Melissa, capturing both the beauty of their relationship and the gritty realities of the challenges that they faced along the way. Apa looks as if he could get even grittier, but the Erwins know exactly what they're going for here and Apa brings that beautifully to life in capturing Camp's humanity and relentless faith. Apa does his own performing here, capturing the essence of Camp's sincere stage persona and natural vocals. Robertson, a ridiculously charismatic actress, is ridiculously charismatic here and makes you fall in love with her right alongside Jeremy. By the time the story really gets going, we're completely invested in her life.
Gary Sinise and Shania Twain are both under-utilized, though Sinise has always been one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated actors and he proves that once again here in a scene that could have so easily been a toss-away but is instead brimming with primal emotions and heartwrenching honesty. Shania Twain continues to impress as she's stepped back into the spotlight over the last couple years.
When a film is based upon a song, or at least titled after a song, I want that film to make me fall in love with the song even more and that's what happens with I Still Believe. This is a film that will give you a deep appreciation for the amazing faith that brought Jeremy Camp to write this song and to live into a level of faith that may be difficult for some to understand yet will also instantly help even more relate to him on a deeper level.
Music by John Debney matches the film's emotional rhythms sublimely, while Kristopher Kimlin's lensing for the film illuminates the wonder of the journey while also capturing the film's more challenging obstacles realistically.
After opening in theaters in early March as the #2 new movie and #3 overall, I Still Believe was rushed to Video on Demand due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film now arrives on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital on May 5th and faith-based moviegoers won't want to miss this film with an engaging, emotionally resonant story and a terrific ensemble cast.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic