By Rusty Wright, Special to ASSIST News Service (ANS Movie Review)
MOUNT HERMON, CA (ANS – October 21, 2016) – As I watched this film, I often felt like the screenwriters had placed a hidden microphone in my home. True love. Romance. Exciting, intimate, emotional connection. Fulfilling, committed partnership. Joys and sorrows. Drama … tragedy … recovery … triumph. This one’s got real love and real life, folks.
New Life stars include Jonathan Patrick Moore (TV’s Blindspot, Royal Pains, NCIS), Erin Bethea (Fireproof), and Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn (The Rocketeer, Places in the Heart; TV’s Lost, West Wing, Alias).
The girl next door
Ben and Ava meet as children – next-door neighbors – and become best of friends. They date through their teen years. While Ava’s away at university, Ben’s jobs keep him back at home, limiting their communication. Things become rocky.
Ava becomes attracted to a classmate, and is close to falling for him when, on a snack shop date, she realizes that Ben’s the one she loves. She makes a quick exit … suggesting that her bewildered suitor consider a backup babe, conveniently seated at a nearby table.
Ben’s proposal (way cool; how’d he pull that off?), their wedding, and new life together ensue. The marriage has its challenges. Work consumes Ben’s time and energies. The two quarrel and make up. But then, life throws a curve ball. Ava has cancer.
Life’s curve ball
My wife of sixteen years, Meg Korpi, died in June after a lengthy battle with cancer. I could relate well to much of Ava’s and Ben’s jolt-filled journey: Diagnosis, chemotherapy, losing hair, new lifestyle, a dizzying array of medical information, encouragement from friends and family, hope and disappointment. Ava’s cancer ebbs, then returns with a vengeance. Goodbyes to family and each other. Coping with the emptiness of losing a spouse.
In New Life, Ben’s postmortem depression makes life seem gray. Friends and neighbors look in on him and help him with projects. One new family member – a child – especially brightens his life. In the end, Ben concludes, “The most important thing to do with life, is to live it.”
Bethea, who also co-wrote and produced, says, “We wanted to inspire audiences with love’s power, in any circumstance, to give strength and hope.”
New Life is an excellent, moving portrayal of love’s kindling, flaming, and flickering, and of a cancer journey with one you love. I guess that hidden mic was not only inside our house, but also in Meg’s doctor’s offices, hospitals, chemo infusion clinics, our vacation spots, and more. The characters’ words and portrayals of angst and hope are authentic. It often seemed as if they’d been reading my mind and heart.
Living life to the fullest
Knowing you are loved certainly can provide hope and strength to face life’s challenges. And living life to the fullest has value. Of course, people have different ways of defining that. In our marriage, it meant inviting a third person into our relationship, a concept for which I’m indebted in many ways to my Jewish friends and their heritage.
One ancient Hebrew book describes Job, who, despite his boatload of troubles, affirmed, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” That gave him hope.
Similarly, knowing that we each had a personal friendship with a God who loves us gave Meg and me the greatest hope as she neared life’s finish line. It provided strength to endure hardship together – knowing he wants our best – plus the confidence that we’ll see each other again. As I adjust to losing her, faith plus many friends sustain me as my emotions learn to catch up with what I know to be true. (Still learning.)
New Life will help you feel and see much of what real love facing tragedy can be. The film is fun, family-friendly, and deserves a wide audience.
Rated PG (USA) “for thematic material.”
Copyright © 2016 Rusty Wright
Photo captions: 1) Film poster. 2) Ava (Erin Bethea) and Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) are in love. 3) These two really enjoy being married to each other. 4) Dr. Sumrall (Terry O’Quinn). 5) Rusty Wright.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
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