Becca (Jenn Gotzon Chandler. God's Country, God's Not Dead 2) has the perfect life. A Texas farm girl with a strong faith and a successful husband, Adam (Lane Garrison), and a beautiful 5-year-old daughter, Acie (Riley St. John), Becca's life on her picturesque Texas farm is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. When Adam is killed in a tragic ATV accident during a 4th of July celebration, Becca's seemingly unquestionable faith begins to waver as her grief is inconsolable and the rising demands of the huge farm and single parenting leave her relying more and more on her grandfather (Corbin Bernsen, Major League, God's Club), whose quiet, steady presence for Acie confronts the young girl's own guilt over having asked her father for a jacket just before the crash. Feeling a need to get away from all the demands, Becca's chance encounter with her high school best friend, June (Jill Morrison), has her heading off for a getaway that turns into an ever increasing drinking problem and headed down a self-destructive path. When she's finally arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, suddenly the very real possibility of losing Acie enters the picture. It's a chance encounter with a guitar totin' traveler that finally gives Becca the inspiration she needs to re-ignite her faith and reunite her family.
My Daddy Is In Heaven is based on the award-winning book "My Daddy is in Heaven with Jesus," inspired by author Rebecca Crownover's true story. Crownover, an executive producer on the film, has subsequently written a series of Texas Farm Girl children's books that have won multiple awards. The film is written by Joseph Nasser and Noelle Nelson and directed by Waymon Boone, the former frontman for the alt/rock band Splender and now an accomplished, award-winning filmmaker.
Boone himself has said “For anyone who has experienced trying times and wondered if God is there, this is your film." Indeed, Boone is correct as the film will without a doubt mostly appeal to persons of faith who will be able to identify with its honest, if occasionally histrionic, portrayal of the challenge of maintaining one's faith when everything in life seems to start going wrong.
My Daddy Is in Heaven isn't likely to have much in the way of crossover appeal, though co-writers Nasser and Nelson seem completely comfortable with that fact and, in fact, the film manages to be both remarkably honest in its portrayal of life challenges while never losing sight of its target audiences and the core of faith that is at the center of everything that unfolds here. Produced by the Nasser Brothers, Joseph and Jack, My Daddy Is in Heaven is the latest in their multiple faith-based projects that have included God's Club, A Mile in His Shoes, What Would Jesus Do? (Parts 1-3) and others. While widely respected within the faith-based community, the Nasser Brothers have also produced films for secular audiences including What Goes Up, The Whole Ten Yards, and the award-winning Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story that captured the Best Motion Picture prize at the Canadian Diversity Awards.
As Becca, Jenn Gotzon Chandler gives a complex, layered performance that will likely resonate with those who've ever reached a point of doubting their faith or questioning God's presence. While Corbin Bernsen could likely do a role like this in his sleep, to his credit he infuses the film with a warmth and compassion that is especially soothing as Becca pulls away and Acie, played to perfection by young Riley St. John, seemingly aches trying to fix something that is way beyond her grasp. Largely serving as the film's comic relief, Jill Morrison is a definite gem here as June.
Kent Rock's accompanying music serves as a solid companion for the film, while special kudos must go to Starla Christian for a top notch production design and to Kevin Hale editing that allows the film to linger in all the right spots.
My Daddy Is in Heaven will be available through Walmart, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, VUDU and On Demand via local cable providers. For more information on the film, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic