Timeless movie romances require great on-screen chemistry. It’s the ethereal, magical element in movies like Casablanca that resonates for decades. Perhaps forever.
I’m not directly comparing I Still Believe to Casablanca but they do share a key element--real cinematic chemistry.
On one level, I Still Believe is a sweet romance at the center of a larger, faith-based story about love and loss, happiness and grief.
It’s based on the real-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp played by A.J. Apa, and Jeremy’s love interest and soul mate Melissa Henning, played by Britt Robinson. A.J. and Brit have appeared together previously in the movie A Dog’s Purpose and their pairing works here all over again.
To their credit, what they create together seems wonderfully believable and real, moment by moment. They make a delightfully attractive couple, but their performances are spot on.
They never make a false step along the way as they explore the boundaries of their blossoming relationship, fall in love and ponder their place in a universe filled with glimmering stars.
Yes, this is a movie about love. And miracles.
But it’s not the cookie-cutter religious feel-good film you might expect. Instead, it goes beyond the prayers that are sometimes granted to those and sometimes aren’t.
And it tries to offer explanation and understanding and, ultimately, some degree of hope that ultimately speaks to everyone in this imperfect, sometimes cruelly tragic world.
I mentioned that this is the story of a real-life song writer and performer who struggled to achieve success, and the movie does a nice job of covering that journey.
It follows him from a young, college-bound aspiring star and the shiny red Gibson guitar that his family scraped together to buy, to the successful, chart-topping performer captivating audiences at major concert events. All this may start to sound a little like Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, but it plays like the true life story that it is, and not like an artificial Hollywood version of it.
To his credit, A.J. Apa does a very credible job playing guitar and singing the vocal tracks, covering Jeremy Camp’s original material.
Like everything else in this movie, it feels unforced and unembellished.
The same can be said of the supporting cast, in particular, Gary Sinise as Jeremy Camp’s father, a salt of the earth, straight up kind of a guy who is Jeremy’s emotional anchor. Shania Twain appears as Jeremy’s mom.
If there is any criticism of I Still Believe, it’s that, perhaps, it ran a little long. I felt that it could have been trimmed down and tightened up a little in the editing room, but that’s a really minor criticism.
Overall, I was impressed with the writing, casting, performances and direction. It was beautifully photographed.
All in all, the cast and crew should be proud of making a very watchable movie on a relatively tight budget. These days, that counts for something.
I’m a big fan of little movies like this that manage to get of things exactly right, due to the cast and crew’s solid commitment to the project. It restores my faith in moviemaking.
It’s refreshing to see a movie like this these days.
I applaud the effort to step outside the narrow range of most mainstream movies to tell a story about spirituality and faith. Particularly when the filmmakers manage to avoid the pitfalls of being predictable or preachy.
I Still Believe is not any sort of religious recruitment film. There is no agenda or attempt to promote any particular point of view. Instead, it is a faith-based movie for the times with a message of hope and inspiration for just about anyone. To its credit, though it may be faith-based, I Still Believe also manages to be refreshingly reality-based. And relevant.
I Still Believe is a minor miracle. A real-life, faith-based movie that delivers a strong message without being predictable or preachy.