I tend not to seek out Hallmark-type movies, but when on vacation with my cousins this year, they heard about my challenge and wanted to give me some movies, and this is what my cousin’s teenage daughter assigned me. I’m game for anything!
The pioneer setting helps a lot, as I was a big fan of the Little House books as a kid and stuff like that, plus I’m definitely a huge fan of westerns in general. Not necessarily a huge fan of Katherine Heigl, but thanks to a short-lived obsession with Grey’s Anatomy, I tend to want to give her the benefit of the doubt.
She’s Marty, a young woman who’s just moved west with her husband, planning to homestead in the plains by a lovely river. He comes by an untimely accident the very day they arrive and she’s left adrift – she’s an easterner through and through and plans to return home, but the last wagon train before winter has already left. A widower named Clark has an offer: he wants a mother figure in his young daughter’s life. If Marty marries him, stays the winter (total platonic relationship, of course), does what she can with the daughter, he’ll pay for her passage back east in the spring if she still wants to go.
You can guess where all this is going, and you’d be right, but despite its predictability, it’s the kind of story that still gets me. Like I said, the setting goes a long way, and there is some great beauty in the surroundings here. I also enjoyed seeing Marty, a fiery and independent young woman, trying to prove she can cut it on the frontier even though she’d apparently been planning to rely on her husband to do everything, because she can’t do anything. But she steps up, especially when her new husband’s 9-year-old keeps showing her up all the time.
With Michael Landon Jr. directing a Janette Oke book, you can bet there’s some faith-based elements here, but they’re not actually overwhelming (of course, I’m a Christian) – Clark is a strong Christian. I don’t totally agree with his loner nature-based theology, but again, it works for the setting. Marty isn’t at first, though his quiet faith eventually has an impact. I do have an affinity for the “love comes softly” approach of the title. We tend to place way too much focus on love as an emotion (and as a romantic passion) in our culture, and not enough on love as an action, and the way that emotional/romantic love can grow out of time and actions.
Heigl isn’t GREAT in this, though she’s adequate enough – the memorable one really is the girl Missy (Skye McCole Bartusiak), who outacts Heigl in every scene. That said, the movie worked surprisingly well for me, thanks to those setting and plot elements that appeal to me – I also quite like stories about forming new families and beginning to heal from devastating losses. I probably would’ve ranked it a little higher, actually, if the third act hadn’t succumbed to one plot device that annoys me to death – as spring nears, Marty writes a letter to tell Clark she wants to stay but it gets lost so he assumes she wants to leave. JUST. TALK. TO. EACH. OTHER. Of course, this allows for a last-minute chase and reuniting, but it’s such a lazy way to get that kind of a climax.
Stats and stuff…
directed by Michael Landon, Jr., written by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley
starring Katherine Heigl, Dale Midkiff, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Theresa Russell
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Love Comes Softly entered my chart:
Love Comes Softly > Sylvia Scarlett
Love Comes Softly < Twin Warriors
Love Comes Softly < Manhattan Murder Mystery
Love Comes Softly < The Ring (2002)
Love Comes Softly > About a Boy
Love Comes Softly > The Girl from Missouri
Love Comes Softly < Hard Luck
Love Comes Softly > Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z
Love Comes Softly < Interview with the Vampire
Love Comes Softly > 6 Hours to Live
Love Comes Softly < Happenstance
Final #1672 out of 3734 (55%)
It is now my #1 Michael Landon Jr. film, my #1 Katherine Heigl film, my #10 Rural Drama, and my #32 film of 2003.
Love Comes Softly was recommended by Micaela, my cousin’s daughter.