Freshman Year is a Christian faith-based film about the coming of age of an African American male named CJ (Diallo Thompson) and his Hispanic girlfriend Marcella (Natalia Dominguez) when they both leave home for college, and a romance blossoms. CJ has grown up in a strict and protective Christian home, devoting his life to strong moral choices, clean living, and loving and serving God and others. Marcella, though not reared in a Christian home, has a strict single-mother upbringing, where her older brother plays a protective role. As might be expected, CJ is overwhelmed by his newfound freedom and independence and begins to struggle with balancing his faith, peer pressure, and falling in love. A drastic twist occurs when he gets Marcella pregnant, and they begin to struggle to make difficult life choices.
Though the subject matter is for a more mature audience, it is encouraging to see how the parents step up to support this couple, regardless of their disappointment. However, even though the consequences of having pre-marital sex are apparent through the pregnancy, I was disappointed that there was not a conversation about the morality of the couple’s choices, especially since CJ’s were so out of character–he slept with Marcella while drunk and within a very short period of them beginning to date. Furthermore, before they discover Marcella is pregnant, there is no remorse whatsoever for their choices. Instead, the remorse revolves solely around discovering a pregnancy outside of wedlock, not around underage drinking or the spiritual or other potential physical consequences of premarital sex.
Overall, the music is relevant hip-hop throughout, appealing to a younger audience, and though this film is longer than it needs to be, the acting is solid by all, and the storyline is well executed. Though there is discussion about abortion, it is admirable to see Marcella choose to keep her baby and put her faith in the God she is coming to know. Indeed, we are able to celebrate that she and her extended family end up in church praising God for a successful outcome.
Freshman Year merits the Dove-Approved Seal for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take:
Freshman year takes an opportunity to communicate that faith in God against all odds is the anchor by which to hope in the future, and His grace is the foundation by which we can rest, regardless of our past choices.