An In-Depth Look at the Movie Version of Redeeming Love

 In Kell's Blog

I never know what y’all will get upset about and what you’ll be supportive about, so today I’m taking a risk. I have no idea how this post will be received. But that’s okay.

So let’s dive in.

When I heard that there was going to be a Redeeming Love movie, I frankly didn’t care. I’ve never read the book, and I probably won’t (just … not interested), and there just wasn’t anything about the movie itself that looked particularly appealing to me.

Then the controversy started. It’s all died down (at least in my circles now), but at the time, it was overwhelming. At least for me. I refrained from taking a definitive stance, but I must say, I thought both sides of the argument were being somewhat silly.

And I’m sorry if when I say that, you’re offended, but goodness, y’all. It was dramatic. It was either “you are a prude who can’t enjoy a good movie with a deep theme because purity culture has blinded you to seeing sex in a healthy light” or “you are actively watching pornography and therefore destroying your chances of having healthy sexual relationships with your husband.”

Both sides thought healthy sexual relationships between married Christians were at risk (either because you watched the movie or because you didn’t), though, which interested me because I believe in healthy sexual relationships between married Christians.

And it further interested me given that I had a somewhat vague idea of what the book was about. And it didn’t seem like a plot that should worry about that too much.

But I still didn’t care and still didn’t want to watch it. Unfortunately, one day a couple months ago, now that all the controversy has died down, I was bored, and when I am bored, I do strange things. Like watching awful movies.

And I’ll give you a spoiler alert: though I fall into neither of the exact camps precisely, I saw little that was redeemable about Redeeming Love. So if that’ll just rile you up, this is a good post to avoid.

However, if you’re interested in a post discussing, in depth, exactly what happens in the movie and what inherent worth I (some random chick on the internet who knows nothing about nothing) thinks it has, well, you’re welcome to read on.

Let’s start with a plot summary.

NOTE: this plot summary is inaccurate, but it’s what I observed while watching the movie. If I missed details or added details that weren’t there, I apologize.

The Plot Summary

(NOTE: this is meant to be taken in a tongue-in-cheek manner.)

The story opens on a western town during the Gold Rush. A huge crowd of minors are essentially drawing lots (picking numbers) to decide who gets to sleep with the most popular prostitute, “Angel.” She apparently takes a certain number of patrons a night and is owned/prostituted out by a madam (later found out she’s called “the Duchess”) who cares about her not one mite.

Here, Angel flashes back to her childhood where she’s actually called Sarah. Apparently Sarah’s “Papa” is not married to her mother (has another family) and sends presents but hates that Sarah’s mother gives Sarah the presents rather than keeping them for herself. Sarah’s “Papa” then has an argument with her mother after sending Sarah away during which he tells Sarah’s mother she should’ve had an abortion and slaps her around. Great thing for a kid to overhear, right?

Sarah is of course upset because … well, everything. She even asks her mother if perhaps it would be best if she died so “Papa” could hang out with Mother again. Mother, of course, rejects this notion because she loves Sarah.

Then we come back to Angel in “present time” who is hanging out with a couple prostitutes, some of which are trading tales of abuse/how they became prostitutes. It’s not terribly graphic, and it made me feel bad for the other prostitutes. (Not so much Angel, but meh.)

We’re also introduced to the main male lead who we later find out is called Michael. He’s your typical Christian good boy. I personally didn’t find him super interesting (here or later). He’s introduced working hard on his farm and hanging out with his dog with a golden filter placed over the scene.

He goes to a church and prays within the first 30 seconds of his introduction in a rather cliché way—and he asks for a wife or at least some guidance/a sign on how to get one. Because you know. It’s very, um … well, it’s typical of this kind of story but not necessarily of how Christians actually act. But it’s perfectly fine and is an example of a character seeking the Lord’s guidance on something. At least.

This whole thing takes too long, in my humble opinion. I was ready to get into the plot because we were almost 15 minutes in at this point.

When Michael goes into town, he sees Angel walking through the streets (since she goes walking twice a week with a bodyguard to show off the wares). A storekeeper dude who Michael knows explains that Angel is a prostitute and that there’s a lottery to sleep with her.

And Michael, being so smart, suddenly goes, “That’s the girl.” While gazing dreamily at her. Yeah, I … I am very interested to see how cringey this can get. Because this is already a pretty cringey understanding of romance.

I do understand theoretically that God CAN hop down from Heaven and tell you what to do in this way, but something about the portrayal of the characters and the way Michael went about winning Angel after this made me feel like God would not approve of this. But whatever. That’s just one woman’s opinion.

Then we flash back again to young Angel/Sarah who is having a conversation with a servant lady who tells her that her Papa is an evil man, “nobody cares about anybody in this world,” all men just want to use you, et cetera. The servant lady terms this as “God’s truth.”

Then we seem to skip forward a mite in the flashback. Apparently Sarah’s mother has now been tossed out by her lover/Sarah’s “Papa” and is having to support herself and Sarah with further prostitution which is shown pretty vaguely. (By the way, the actress who plays Young Sarah is adorable and pretty talented for a child of that age. Totally bought her performances. She is the best actor in this film.)

Then Sarah’s mother is dying now as mothers are wont to do. She coughs a lot and Sarah tries to nurse her to health. Sarah’s mother encourages Sarah to pray, repeating The Lord’s Prayer. And then she goes ahead and dies. Again, as mothers are wont to do.

Then we flash forward to the present where Sarah/Angel gets drunk and is manhandled by her bodyguard. He swears she has something she’s hiding (this just confused me?) and tosses her into a tub and attempts to drown her and/or teach her a lesson (while she’s like, “do it” which is what I’d say in her position, too—but girl, are we ever going to address the constant string of suicidal thoughts coming from your mouth because …? You sound really depressed). She then gets slapped around by the madam.

So far neither Angel nor Michael have really made me like them, but maybe that’s coming. 22 minutes in, and I don’t care about anything.

Then Michael just shows up in Angel’s room while she is naked. We see her naked back and then her naked front with her hair hiding a small portion of her breasts to keep that PG-13 rating. After all, modest is hottest. Meanwhile, Michael just stands behind and acts all pure in a secular sense when really a true Christian man would be a: averting his eyes out of respect to this absolutely naked woman and b: considerably more awkward especially as presumably this is the first time he’s seen a naked woman. But whatever.

But apparently Michael just wants to talk. They have a kind of pointless conversation for a bit while Kell impatiently waited for the plot to start. Michael really sucks at getting to the point. Which Angel clearly thinks too because she’s like, “Can we just get this thing over with?” But Michael proposes and won’t stop insisting she should marry him until Angel kicks him out.

Michael, you see, is convinced that Angel should marry him. In fact, that it is God’s will that he marry this prostitute that he knows nothing about and has only just met. He pays double in the lottery to get to see her again the next night. They talk and Michael repeats his offer. (At least they’ve talked some at this point, but he’s still annoying, so healthy relationship? Nope.)

And Michael hasn’t given up because apparently “no” is not a word a real Christian man understands. It’s supposed to be romantic that he’s willing to pay that much gold to see her night after night, but really it’s just creepy and overbearing.

I suppose you could say it’s a theological quibble, but my personal belief is that sometimes God closes a door and you can tell because you keep banging on the door and it doesn’t open. Michael could stand to learn that.

Also, in another scene where Angel is talking with the other prostitutes, we’re shown that Angel is an utterly unlikable jerk. Really helping the plot along.

Then the next night, while Michael is on the way up to Angel’s room, another prostitute approaches him but Michael shakes her off and goes up to Angel. He seems to be mad at her because she sicked said other prostitute on him. (I can’t even with this man’s entitlement. What a jerk.) Anyway, he snaps at her, reminds her that she’s the best he’ll ever get, and then kisses her. Then when she of course is like, “Okay, cool, let’s do it and get it out of the way,” he tells her to stop like it wasn’t his idea.

He feels so unsafe. I’m just … so scared of him? He seems to have a temper, he doesn’t care what she wants, and he won’t take “no” for an answer. I actively dislike him AND Angel now.

So anyway, she insults his farm, and he walks off all angry because he is a pouty child. As we have another flashback to where Angel/Sarah is young and being taken care of by someone else after her mother has died, I remind myself that Michael is the stand-in for Hosea and therefore God. And I giggle with amusement.

So anyways, we have a scene where some man pretty much sells Angel/Sarah (who is a baby of maybe eight at the time) into prostitution even after someone begs him not to. It’s sad but not really graphic. I mean, the guy who brought Angel/Sarah is strangled by the New Bad Guy, but it’s pretty PG in my opinion. Dark but PG.

New Bad Guy then pours perfectly good brandy on said strangled man. Then the New Bad Guy asks baby Sarah/Angel to come over and I went, “Oh, this is it. She’s gonna get raped.” I was so worried for her! He has her sit on his lap and calls her his “Little Angel.” But he basically just says she has to do what he tells her and they’ll get along. However, it is of course implied that he’s going to groom her/abuse her/etc.

Then we see “Little Angel” learning to read. It looks like she’s put in somewhat sexualized costumes and groomed by the New Bad Guy (he has her do things for him, earns her trust by treating her fairly well, and when she grows older, he begins using her at his classy prostitute joint).

Unfortunately, one of her first patrons (?) was her Papa (?!?! oof) who kills himself immediately afterwards once he finds out who she was. We pretty much see the suicide up to the moment where he kills himself (he has bad form, by the way—that’s now how you shoot yourself to actually be painless) … and then we see Angel sitting next to a bed crying but pretty much clothed in our modern terms. Not terribly graphic but certainly dark. Not that dark is a bad thing.

Then the nice prostitute, Sally, who mentored Angel (?) encourages Angel to run, and she does and gets on a ship. Then Sally is seen dumped on a street, dead, after one of the Bad Guy’s henchman tells the Bad Guy she was the one who helped Angel run.

On the ship, Angel meets two other prostitutes who encourage her to also be a prostitute on the ship so to earn money, telling her they might “take it for free” otherwise. So Angel does. Not much graphic about this. We are seeing an awful lot of the top of this actress’s breasts, but oh well. Gritty Christian movie must gritty Christian movie.

As soon as they get off the ship, the other two prostitutes violently knock Angel out and steal her money, then leave her lying on the street. You do see some blood on her face.

Back to “present day.” Angel has a headache. (Sidenote: I’m going to stop commenting on the sheer amount of different angles of Angel’s twin angels that we keep seeing, but suffice to say, you get everything but the nipple in this movie. It’s a lot and oftentimes it’s just for the heck of it? I don’t mind it if there’s a reason, but there rarely is other than to sexualize this young woman. In a movie whose point is the exact opposite of that. But whatever.)

So anyways, Angel asks for “her gold” from the Madame so she can leave and get her own place or maybe even get married. Which Madame says is ridiculous because Angel can only “make a man happy for thirty minutes” whereas if she were married, she’d have to make a man happy all the time and have sex with him whenever he wants which is … worse than prostitution? Hmm. (I’m just saying, Angel presumably has a multitude of patrons a night, and yet one man would only …? Okay, I’ll stop, but I fault the lady’s logic is all.)

Angel then gets super angry and insults the Madame (her name is “the Duchess” but I’m not using tons of names here so I think I’ll stick with what I’ve been calling her) which was a mistake because it gets her slapped around, insulted, and then raped (or at least beat up badly?) by her bodyguard dude. Basically, bodyguard dude drags her to her bedroom and beats her because she won’t stop provoking him like an absolute idiot.

So this wakes Michael up in a cold sweat (?!!) and the next morning, he runs up to Angel’s room and finds her lying in bed, all beaten up. He literally pulls money out of his sleeves (lol why is it there Michael) and hands it to the madame to BUY Angel from her then asks the half-conscious Angel to marry him AGAIN.

That’s coercion.

So anyway, he puts her half-conscious self in his wagon and drives off.

Also, they have really beaten her into utter unrecognizable swollenness at this point.

So Angel wakes up in his cabin, and apparently they’re married (consent?), and he provides her with his dead sister’s clothes. Then he tells her he didn’t marry her for sex, and we flash forward to three weeks later when she’s pretty again.

Oh, and able to walk, but you know, I’m just reading between the lines.

So he’s off doing something, so she gets dressed and walks off with, apparently, no appreciation for the fact that he MARRIED her. Like, girl, you need to think about the legalities here. Not to say that she didn’t do the right thing, though, because Michael is scary, manipulative, and she did not agree to this.

Also, Michael rides his horse abusively. You can tell a lot about a man …

So Michael chases her down, and she slaps himself (deserved). He then gives her a coat and water and tells her she has two options: going back to prostitution and abuse or coming home with him.

No third option is offered so she ends up coming back.

Let us just remind ourselves that romantic relationships should not be based on an either/or fallacy.

He then washes her dirty, calloused feet. It’s actually … somewhat sensual? Not much, but enough that I was weirded out. Which is followed by him combing her hair and her offering sex and him refusing and them talking about God briefly. Including restating Angel’s untrue belief that God is evil and Michael’s untrue belief that God told him to marry Angel.

The next day, they enter into a few fantasy scenes in which farm work is charming and would actually help someone fall in love. Anywho, we see his bare chest because #handsomehunk—and he is still resisting having sex with her still. “Cold showers” (dips in a lake) and all.

Then Angel has a dream about the dude who groomed her in which he tells her she can’t escape and is still his. When she wakes up screaming, Michael drags her out of bed and forces her to go on a sunrise nature walk, saying she has no choice. Super charming. And gives her a little speech about how he’s going to make her life so good.

Then she equates sex to love, and he smooches her. They get back to the cabin and have sex, and basically, we see some passionate kisses, the undressing, her leg hitched up over his back, them falling back on the bed, and there is panting and all that super uncomfortable stuff.

Then we fade to black.

It’s too much, and should’ve been cut off sooner, but it’s definitely a mild PG-13.

This one wasn’t awful, but it does eventually get worse, so hang in there.

My main problem with that scene, though, is that … well, y’all can say “we need more healthy relationships in fiction with healthy sex” but this isn’t a healthy relationship or healthy sex? Healthy sex is non-obligatory and not equated to love but rather an expression of love. It’s basically the works vs. fruits argument in which sex should be a FRUIT not a WORK.

So like? I don’t know. It doesn’t work.

On the other hand, since love is a choice, you can theoretically have a healthy sex life without being madly in love. However, there’s something about this that feels icky. I can’t express it—it’s not just the sex. There have been secular romances that have featured this much content and not felt icky.

This feels icky.

Anywho.

Michael’s brother-in-law, Paul, stumbles in. Michael introduces Paul to Angel who recognizes her. He doesn’t let on to Michael, but when he talks to Angel alone, she provokes him because of course she does. Of course, Paul isn’t really pleased about seeing Angel in his wife’s clothes—he feels like she doesn’t deserve the life she has now. And he’s just … threatening.

So Paul tells Michael things he already knows—and Michael defends Angel and then punches Paul in the face because he has anger issues. Also, I’m beginning to realize that Michael has unlimited cash because he is constantly throwing money at problems—such as when he offers to pay Paul whatever he wants if he just leaves.

Anyways, we flash back to Angel being forced to have an abortion back when she was a prostitute, triggered by Michael saying he wants children with her. (It’s not graphic, but we see some of the instruments they used to remove the baby and hear her screaming at them to not kill her baby.) Back in the current timeline, Angel then hops in the wagon with Paul, intent on going back to the town with him.

Angel then continues to provoke Paul, who tells her that she owes him for the ride to town. Angel agrees and off screen, it’s implied they had sex or … well, there was an exchange of sexual favors. I’ll leave you to determine the rest. *coughs* The good news is her hair still looks amazing afterwards.

I would like to note I’m not blaming Angel for any of this when I say “she provokes someone,” but she does tend to get herself into situations. Which feels unrealistic for an abuse victim and makes you wonder why, if she’s that brave already, she isn’t able to extricate herself from some of this nonsense.

I just feel like it’s not realistic for abuse victims, but correct me if I’m wrong. (Legitimately. I’m curious to know if anyone who has done a more in-depth study of sexual abuse victims has insights.)

Paul then drops her off outside of town because he “won’t be seen with her.” Angel insults him one more time just for the heck of it because it’s worth her time to tell him what a hypocrite he is. When Angel gets to the town, the place she used to work is burnt down, a couple prostitutes and the bodyguard dude are dead, and the madame is gone. Another dude offers her work, and Angel agrees as long as she handles the money.

I said I wouldn’t but I’m going to comment again on just how much of Angel’s body we keep seeing for no discernible reason.

When Paul gets back and tells Michael where Angel is, Michael tracks her down to the new place where she’s living. He finds Angel who is with a man and asks her if she wants to stay—she says “no” (heat of the moment, much? I’m not sure why she agreed to go with Michael this time, especially since presumably her situation is financially better). Anyways, he beats up a couple dudes.

Michael knows that Paul and Angel had sex, but he insists he loves Angel (not sure he knows the meaning of the word—really, he’s obsessed with Angel in an unhealthy way—even if he were a stand-up guy, this is NOT love) … and yeah, they go home.

Angel finds Michael crying in the barn that night. The next day, he finds her in a creek, self-harming (rubbing rocks all over her skin to try to “clean herself”). Michael drags her out and tells her he forgives her (because that’ll fix her obvious trauma response). Angel tells him that he needs to stop having expectations of her (fair) and Michael refuses to listen because he doesn’t listen to people.

This is a safe man to be in a covenant relationship with. Not.

Michael then tells Angel how his dad was a plantation owner, beat him, and told him that the slaves were animals, but an old slave told him about God. Michael’s dad sent him a slave girl to use as a prostitute one night, which was the final straw for him, and he packed up and left. Michael pulls a message of faith out of this, which would feel a lot more earned if he was a decent guy, but he’s not.

I am reminded once again as to how it is the duty of Christian fiction writers to make some sort of nod to the fact that they are not racist, and like, why do we always have to do this? I mean, I get it. I do. But it feels so performative. We all know slavery is evil. We don’t need ALL our characters to state this fact in every book.

Anyways, Angel starts settling back into farm life and seems to be doing better because, I don’t know, it’s time for that to happen in the movie. A traveling family shows up with a very pregnant mother and two daughters. Their dad needs help fixing up the wagon, so they stay with Angel and Michael and make friends and decide to stay forever.

There is singing. The plot has stalled.

The baby has come with no drama, thank the Lord.

Apparently Michael forgives Paul even though the right decision would be to never forgive the man who slept with your wife. According to me, I mean. (To be fair, my husband would probably have already committed some homicide at this point, so I never will have to worry about that, but meh.)

Angel is reminded by the baby that Michael wants kids. She is saddened. She tells Michael she can’t get pregnant because she was sterilized after her first pregnancy. He tells her he loves her, and later, they have sex on a hilltop out in the open. Mostly clothed, granted (she just pops off her top like a normal person having sex out in the cold—literally why, Angel? Look, not to get too graphic, but there is literally nothing that is more of a turn-off than COLD), but we get the whole thing—the faces, the panting, the movements. I’ve seen less in MA-rated shows. It wasn’t fade to black.

So that was just heavily disturbing.

Anyways, after this, Angel leaves one of the daughters who is staying with them a note saying she can have Michael (why do women always act like they can just pass men around?) and yeets, this time going all the way to San Francisco. And this time, Michael refuses to go fetch her, for some entirely unexplained reason. He’s also bitter, but this time he’s not doing anything about it.

So in San Francisco, Angel works serving food for a while, but then the place she works gets burnt down and the Bad Guy from earlier finally finds her.

Meanwhile, Michael keeps asking “Jesus” to “let him go after Angel.” I love how it’s not explained that Jesus told him not to go after Angel, nor that He’s told Michael to do anything, nor is it convincing that Michael has anything but a delusional relationship with God, but whatever.

This is giving Christianity a bad name. To quote my sister-in-law, “We’re not all crazy like Michael.”

So anyways, the Bad Guy takes Angel back to his prostitution parlor where he is grooming a child who is maybe eight or nine. Angel calls him out on this because provocation is a good idea. Granted, that is such a baby, and I would be defending that baby, but … Angel has never been accused of being smart. I would stealthily steal the baby and gave her safe. Poor babies.

The Bad Guy leaves and we hear little girls screaming in the background while Angel collapses to the ground, sobbing and probably having another PTSD episode, but the film will probably not address that PTSD in a healthy way, so let’s not think about that.

Anywho, they dress Angel up and drag her to the stage again. She prays for God to save her and the girls (children and teenagers) who are being made to perform. Then she tells the crowd what the Bad Guy has been doing with little girls and with her.

The Bad Guy drags her off the stage and wants to kill her, but a guy from the crowd pins him down so Angel can run. On her way out, she rescues the two little girls who the Bad Guy currently has in his rooms.

As Angel runs out with the girls, the crowd realizes that she was telling the truth and storms the building. They find the Bad Guy and hang him (his body is shown dangling on screen).

Three years later (YES THAT MUCH OF A TIME JUMP), Paul sees Angel in San Francisco where she is running a house/school/sanctuary for former prostitutes. (My sister-in-law says it’s not that, so before you @ me, read on) He comes there and sees her. We find out that Paul married the daughter Angel wanted to marry Michael while Michael remained single.

Because he’s still waiting for Angel, of course. This dumb—

Anyways, Angel tells Paul that he should go tell Michael she’s dead so he will move on. Paul bursts into tears and tells Angel he’s changed and is sorry for all he’s done and wants forgiveness. (Forgive, yes. Forget, never.) And yeah, she forgives him, because trauma is not a big deal, right?

Paul asks Angel to come back and end Michael’s suffering. Angel refuses because she’s needed at San Francisco. Which is true! The place she’s working now seems both safe and healing. (I don’t know how she afforded that, but you know. Whatever.)

I’ve just been informed, after making the above comment about affording things, that it’s just a school that she works at, not a safe house or anything. I am less impressed. Though I’m not sure if my sister-in-law or I are more right, so I’ll leave it up to y’all who read the book/paid more attention.

So anyways, Angel arrives back at the farm as a Lauren Daigle song plays and both my sister-in-law and I scream, “Noooo.”

Sorry, I just can’t get behind Lauren Daigle because I am not an emotional Christian by nature, and her songs breathe emotion to me.

I’m lame like that.

Anywho.

Angel tells Michael her real name is Sarah and apologizes, and Michael gives her the ring she left behind back because he’s apparently been wearing it on his pinky finger all this time. They pledge eternal devotion to each other. Michael again says he loves her even though I will repeat that this is not true.

If she wakes up some time to him making a sculpture of her out of her hair, I would not be surprised.

Then we flash forward to them with a baby son and her pregnant again. But like, I thought we established that she can’t have children? Whatever.

End of Movie. Thank The Lord Above That This Is Over.

Some Thoughts You Don’t Need

So that was … an experience I would not trade for all the world. I have lost some brain cells, and I love movies that help me lose brain cells. Because, you know, I am depressed and enjoy pain.

I came into the movie with an open mind, really wanting to like it because I’m obstinate, and so many of my friends disliked it. Further, so many of my friends called it sinful, evil, etc., that I couldn’t help but decide that that was an extreme view.

On the flipside, a lot of reviews from people who loved the movie were really judgmental about people who hated the movie, Which I, you know, also was all over.

I expected it to have vaguely sensual scenes, but we got sex scenes that I swear I have seen less of in MA-rated shows. I expected it to be mildly toxic, but we had creepy men and incorrect views of Christian marriage for days. I expected it to be somewhat badly-written and moderately low on plot, but it practically a dark Hallmark movie.

What I didn’t have a problem with? The accurate depiction of the trauma caused by sexual abuse, the evilness inherent in sex trafficking and sexual grooming, and all related aspects of the story. I thought it was tasteful and gave just the right amount of detail.

The problem is, the story didn’t go the extra mile to portray realistic healing from PTSD, the people around Angel were never safe people, and there weren’t a lot of proffered resources within the film to realistically address the situations at hand. I feel like the only thing that was really offered was “pray about it,” but that’s really not enough.

As I mentioned in the summary, they were forcefully given that “perfect ending” that felt both unearned and unrealistic (especially given that no explanation was given in the movie itself as to what kind of “sterilization,” effective or not, Angel went through and how that just magically resolved?! It feels like instead of healthily representing infertility, the movie just chose to let the main characters “pray it away,” and like, yes, the movie didn’t have to deal with infertility, but neither did it need to create artificial drama for like a few scenes only to immediately dismiss it? I guess I’m too sensitive about this topic, though).

Another aspect to address is that I have heard the book is supposed to be based on the story of Hosea. However, the movie did NOT get that across. I haven’t read the book. It probably got that across perfectly and is a great book.

But as an objective piece of media, this movie does not work in that way. There is no pointing toward God. There was no real belief in me by the time the credits rolled that there was an analogy, and I was actively looking for it. I can’t even imagine what it would look like to someone who didn’t know, all along, that Michael was supposed to be God in this story, and Angel us, the fallen bride.

Or you could argue that Michael is supposed to be Hosea, but that in the Bible itself is a prophetic analogy used by God to describe His relationship with Israel …? Hosea was a prophet, not some random dude with a troubled wife?

Because we are not God and husbands are not expected to do everything for their wives in the same manner God did everything for Israel. Husbands cannot forgive their wives’ sins. Husbands cannot stand in place for God to their wives; husbands cannot be a high priest for their wives.

In addition, the story wanders greatly from the original storyline of Hosea by including the child trafficking thread, correct? Therefore, why can’t the story just be something on its own? “Inspired by” is one thing, but I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s a retelling, which is a different matter entirely because then, again, it puts Michael in the position of either the Lord or a prophet of the Lord, in which case …

You are saying that the Lord needs us in the same way a man might desire to have sex with a beautiful woman. I’m sorry if that’s a little too crude an interpretation, but this is not a media excluded to the high-thinking amongst us, and as such, it needs to try a little harder to not make those direct comparisons.

At best, though, it puts God in the place of a human man, which is an analogy used in the Bible, after all. Marriage is one of the best representations of God’s love for us and relationship with His bride, the Church. But it’s not a perfect analogy.

To quote a reviewer of the book, “The popularity of this book and some of the comments are representative of the “God as love” or some kind of “divine romancer” beliefs that are prevalent, as if God needs us and is desperate for us, rather than the other way around. The author writes that God says, “Though you deny me, I love you with an everlasting love.” That is not in line with Scripture, where God does not love with an everlasting love those who deny Him. God hates sin (and sinners) and demands obedience. Yes, God loves us and forgives us when we sin if we approach Him through trust in Jesus, but that doesn’t give us a licence to sin or to presume upon His grace. Redemption (the supposed theme of this book) should lead to a complete transformation of heart and life.” (See review.)

Okay, I’ll stop. I can’t sort it out. I am not a wise woman. I am a simple one, with simple beliefs.

And I simply decided that this movie fails to be a good movie and therefore does not have the right to hid behind the “it’s a RETELLING of a book of the Bible” excuse. If anything, that means we should scrutinize it more closely, not give it free license to do what we want.

This is just not my type of romance. I love masculine, I-would-die-for-her, godly men who chase down their women and do what men are supposed to do—love them.

But I dislike men who treat women like chattel. Yes, that’s a thing, and yes, it’s bad!!! Michael treated Angel like a man treats a woman he doesn’t respect. Because all life deserves respect.

Is respect a necessary element of a man’s love for a woman in a Christian marriage? Yeah, it is. We both need and crave love and respect, just to differing degrees as we are, in fact, different. But women need to know that they are wanted for something more than their body, and they need to be brought into a relationship willingly.

And what about consent? That’s the buzz-word amongst non-Christians. Is it even important in a Christian relationship?

YES. In fact, it is even more vital amongst Christians because we should have higher standards. Not to the “you have to ask your wife every time you kiss her” way because that’s nonsense. In fact, if you’re doing that, well, either you’re dealing with some trauma responses (valid) or you might want to rethink your relationship.

But sexual relationships should not be an obligation. There should be no room for guilt in the marriage bed. And women should not be dragged back, kept inside, MADE to submit.

If you’re a Christian man, ask yourself, is her unwilling, fear-based submission really what you want? And if you’re a Christian women, if he makes you feel like that, how can I help you run?

Anyways.

TTFN!

~Kell~

P.S.

Well, what do you think? I’m legitimately curious, and I’m up for hearing all sorts of opinions! Though if you know me at all, you know calling me a prude is gonna get them eye-rolls.

Showing 21 comments
  • Michaela
    Reply

    I’m so glad for your in-depth analysis of Redeeming Love, it saved me the time it would’ve taken to watch it lol. I was also on the sidelines watching everyone freak out over this movie earlier in the year and planned to watch it at some point after the drama died down, because nobody freaking out over it had even seen it. So you saved me the trouble xD I really hoped that this movie held themes of HEALTHY healing and recovery, while not whitewashing the traumas of trafficking and PTSD, because that’s something I really wish Christian media/movies/etc would get into without either minimizing the victim or offering some strange “Christian boy fixes everything” plot line…Guess we’re not there yet.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      That was my issue, too … no one who was posting, calling it bad or possibly good, had actually seen it! I was like, “… guys.” How can you be informed without having at least a basic introduction to what is in the show? Granted, they may have read a more in-depth review than I was able to find, but still. 😛

      And I’m glad I saved you the trouble! It also just wasn’t that interesting/well-acted/etc., which was another issue entirely that didn’t even seem to deserve words for me after I got through all the other issues, lol.

  • Brielle
    Reply

    Kelly, I liked you before I read this, but after I think we may secretly be kindred spirits. You’re beyond balanced and rooted in Christ and common sense in how you portray and interpret situations. This is really inspiring. I wish all the reviews of this movie were as balanced as yours.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Aw, thank you, Brielle! That’s such a blessing to hear. 🙂 I think you’re right – we are secret kindred spirits. From the outside, we might not look like we have loads and loads in common, but we definitely do! And I’m so glad you enjoyed this review/found it balanced … that was my goal!

  • M. C. Kennedy
    Reply

    Gotta say, I love it when your posts begin with, “This is controversial, so…” 😂

    I haven’t seen this film and don’t plan to, because I’m quite strict about what I watch (personal convictions, definitely not saying everyone else has to adhere to them). I have read the book though, and I agree with a lot of your points.

    The book has a good story—it really does. But Michael and Angel’s relationship is just… creepy. It bothered me how he literally drags her unconscious body out of the brothel and is like, “I know you said you hate me, but I’m marrying you whether you want to or not.” And she’s just like, “Sure…?” BECAUSE WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE HALF UNCONSCIOUS AND BEING DRAGGED AWAY IN A WAGON?!?!?! Rubbed me the wrong way, for sure.

    And then there’s so much sex. So. Much. Sex. Like, for a little while they’re having sex every other page. And I’m just like, “STOPPPPPP!!! We get it, they’re married! We don’t have to know every detail of their marital state!” I’ll be the first to admit I’m more sensitive to that kind of thing than the majority of people, but still… yikes.

    But Michael is a little better in the book than he seems to be in the movie (based on your summary, anyway). He’s still kind of fake-feeling, but he’s less creepy. His motivations are more explained, I guess.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Honestly, I was about 80% sure that book Michael was less creepy than movie Michael for the reason that seeing his internal thoughts would’ve helped a LOT. But even so, things like that “dragging a half-unconscious woman into a wagon and calling her ‘sure’ consent” is just … not something that works for me. Plus the whole “we’re getting married whether you want to or not,” in my personal belief system is not a good analogy to use for God/His people, either. So I was just like, “Yeah, nope.”

      And yeah, I’m all for a representation of healthy marriage within the Christian fiction genre. I appreciate it. But this was both unhealthy and way too detailed, at least in my opinion. I definitely support a “gritty” (just honest) sort of Christian fiction, as you know having read a lot of my books, but … yeah no. This was something else!

  • iamcharlesbakerharris
    Reply

    “Redeeming Love” is trash. Thank you for inviting me to your Ted talk.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      That’s kind of where I ended up. I didn’t want to say that in so many words, but just … what in the fundamentalist nightmare? Anyways, thank you for coming. 😛

      • iamcharlesbakerharris
        Reply

        What in the fundamentalist nightmare, indeed!

        (I would have left a much longer comment yesterday, but I was wiped out after work, so I HAVE RETURNED WITH FURTHER THOUGHTS.)

        I do think it’s a shame that the conversation around this movie in Christian circles was reduced to “sex scenes: good or bad????” Because as you so adroitly pointed out, Jeeves, there is MUCH that is wrong with this movie apart from the question of sex scenes; namely, that it presents a toxic, controlling man as an allegory for our loving God, and a non-consensual relationship as a symbol of our covenant with Him. *John Mulaney voice* “First off, NO.”

        I’ve read some of Francine Rivers’ other work (“A Voice in the Wind”) and was far from impressed. More toxic men, more controlling relationships with unhealthy power imbalances. I think she was so caught up in writing cHRISTIAN EROTICISM–“look at me, I’m the only Christian fiction author who does sex scenes”–that she forgot to ask herself whether her romances were, y’know, Good?

        • Kellyn Roth
          Reply

          Yeah, that irritates me, too. It’s funny to me that the actual content of the story got ignored in favor of just squabbling over the sexual content. Now, to be fair, I personally felt the sexual content was very bad. That said, there’s more to it than that. Which to me all ties together. If one part of a work in inherently flawed, then the rest often becomes that way, too.

          I think I’ve read that one, too, and mostly just felt like it was all such a mess that there wasn’t anything about it that I felt worth criticizing.

  • Ryana Lynn
    Reply

    I think you summed up my thoughts in a coherent and Christian manner that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. I might be learning other languages but you wouldn’t have been able to understand my indignant gibberish 😇

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      LOL! Yeah, I was more bemused than upset throughout. It just doesn’t make any logical sense to me why this story would exist.

  • Kristianne Hassman
    Reply

    I really appreciate your in-depth summary and analysis of this! I’d already decided not to watch it, but this convinces me even more. It sounds like it had the potential to be a great story about healing and forgiveness, but fell short of the mark. Which is really too bad, because we need more good stories that portray the real darkness in this world in a tasteful, realistic, and biblical way.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Yes, I really wish there’d been more value to the story because a lot of the elements could’ve worked with a few tweaks, but the whole thing ended up just not being helpful.

  • E.F.B.
    Reply

    The more I read the more I felt your frustration building and the more my eye twitched because I can’t believe some people think this movie is good or healthy. 😵‍💫 Plugged In’s content review was honestly the only one I trusted to be unbiased (not to mention written by someone who actually watched the movie) so once I read that I knew I’d never watch it, but wow. Even that didn’t fully capture the problems. I just… wow.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Yup, to me the sexual content took a backseat to just how nonsensical, lacking in reality, and utterly toxic the characters, plot, etc., were.

  • Abigail Kay Harris
    Reply

    Ah, thank you for this post. Honestly, I have NEVER understood the overwhelming love for the book nor the movie… As bad as the movie is the descriptions of the book were worse. I just want to scream WHYYYYYY when I hear raving over this one.

    Yeah, not even going to touch this movie in my life.

    • Kellyn Roth
      Reply

      Yeah, it was ridiculous. To me, it seems like maybe it’s the idea that it has a deep biblical theme, and once people have determined that within themselves, and further started sympathizing with the characters (which I imagine is easier if you’re reading the book and your empathy is going because you have seen all these things happen to the Poor Babies), you get attached and can’t separate those feelings from the horror of Michael “I Will Find You and Capture You” Smith (or whatever his last name was – I don’t remember).

  • Katja L.
    Reply

    I never did comment on this, but… thanks for this hilarious and solid post XD I also didn’t want to talk about RL before knowing more about it, so I appreciate having this to lean on!

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