Love takes faith.
Inspired by the New York Times bestseller written by Dr. Meg Meeker, the Pure Flix Original film Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is everything you want a Pure Flix film to be. We'd like to believe that faith sets us up for the perfect life, but the simple truth is that living into our faith is hard work and there are days when our humanity shows up and we make mistakes over and over and over again.
Steve Parston (Bart Johnson) is a good father and provider. A successful businessman, he's happily married to Connie (Robyn Lively) and a proud father of three daughters including eldest daughter Abby (Carrie Wampler) who returns home from a trip announcing her engagement to Oz (Brandon Prado).
Suddenly, the picture perfect life that Steve thought he'd created for his family is upended by Abby's announcement that she has no intention of moving into a leadership position in her father's company and instead plans to follow Oz into the Kenyan mission field. Throwing Steve into even more of a spiritual tizzy, middle daughter Zoey (Kayla DiVenere) is showing signs of being the rebellious wild child.
While there's a pretty good chance you could already finish the story, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters benefits from a strong ensemble cast and a compassionate, relatable story and ends up being exactly the kind of film we want to see when we and tune into Pure Flix for entertainment that informs and inspires our faith journeys.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters understands that parenting is simultaneously one of life's greatest blessings but it can also be remarkably challenging. The challenges that unfold here are relatable challenges realistically birthed out of what it means to live daily life and what it means to be a family. We can love our children with every fiber of our being, but that doesn't mean they're going to follow the path we set out for them. We can guide our children beautifully, however, that doesn't mean that they'll never face temptation and have to make difficult choices.
Again, Love takes faith.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters also benefits greatly from the presence of soon to be in-laws played by real-life couples Bart Johnson and Robyn Lively, as Abby's parents, and David Barrera and Maria Canals-Barrera as Oz's parents. These real-life relationships help to ground the film's story in a strong authenticity and a naturalism that radiates throughout the film's 95-minute running time. It's a reminder, perhaps, that even parenting takes a village as it becomes abundantly clear that the Barreras, as Carlos and Bella, are gently nudging Steve and Connie as they learn how to let go and love differently.
Refreshingly, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters avoids turning Steve, or anyone else for that matter, into a bad guy here. These are human beings trying to live their lives faithfully who love one another and stumble along the way. They make mistakes. They stop. They pray. They listen. They learn. They start over.
While one could argue that the positive transformations occasionally arrive a bit too easily here, especially with middle daughter Zoey as we move from complete humiliation with her school peers to domestic bliss mighty quickly, the point here isn't so much hardcore realism as it is planting the seeds that the choices we make and the words that we use with one another matter. It's clear, for example, that Zoey craves reconnection with her family and once her father hears that and acts upon it the path is paved for restoration of their relationship.
Bart Johnson convinces as Steve, a good father who's having to catch up to strong daughters as they move from little girls to young women. This could have so easily been turned into a caricature, but instead Johnson's Steve is a father who will likely feel familiar to many moviegoers as he moves back toward the father that God intended him to be. Robyn Lively is a joy as Connie, Steve's loyal but occasionally bewildered wife who seems undeniably more familiar with her daughters' journeys and this stage of life they are in.
Carrie Wampler is similarly inspired as Abby, a strong woman of faith who has found a partner worthy of her strength and with whom she shares a passion for living life differently and very much outside the corporate box. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters never asks Abby to weaken, but instead it portrays her strength and willingness to serve others as good and holy. Wampler has a warm, natural chemistry with Brandon Prado's Oz and their sweet, simple relationship felt honest and like those early days and weeks and months of "I've found the one."
One of the film's quiet strengths is the presence of David Barrera and Maria Canals-Barrera as the parents of Oz and three young women. The Barreras come off like those wise elders from whom you also seek counsel because they're simply always gentle, always kind, and always right. David Barrera's Carlos is practically the dream in-law and, I must say, he delivers some of the film's absolute best lines. As Bella, Maria Canals-Barrera grounds the film in such earthy wisdom and maternal spirit that you can't help but absolutely love her.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is a funny, heartfelt, and faith-filled family film ideal for parents with tween and teen daughters. The film occasionally tackles more serious topics and may be a tad too mature for younger kids given references to drinking, a teenage party with intense peer pressure, and one scene in particular that implies the potential for sexual behavior. The relationship between Abby and Oz is for the most part quite chaste and expressed through mostly a relaxed presence with playful flirting and the occasional kiss.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is the kind of film you expect from Pure Flix. A Pure Flix Original film set to premiere exclusively on Pure Flix on August 1st, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters is directed by David de Vos and co-written by de Vos with Amy Snow based upon Dr. Meg Meeker's bestseller by the same name. Original music by Pancho Burgos-Goizueta complements the film's many rhythms quite nicely and Rick Pendleton's lensing is warm and immersive throughout.
Watch Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters for yourself on Pure Flix starting August 1st!
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic