This is a powerful film, based on the story of the prodigal son from the book of Luke (Chapter 15.) But this is told from the viewpoint of a modern family. The father, Luke Mackenzie, is a strong Christian man and is raising three kids with his wife, Kelley. Their kids are Isaac, Jacob, and Aurora. Isaac and Jacob are twins but they are quite different. Isaac is doing his best to live for the Lord, but Jacob doesn’t have much room in his life for God. Jacob says the family is only making it at the ranch due to their mother’s job, and that God looks down and smiles – and that’s about it. “There’s more to life than horses and church,” he says. Mackenzie mentions “My Jesus” to his son who doesn’t want to be preached at. Luke plays the guitar and sings an inspiring version of The Old Rugged Cross. He and the family pray over meals in the name of Jesus. Unfortunately, their faith is about to be severely tested.
Mom Kelley works a 9 pm to 3 am shift as a nurse at the hospital and she heads to work, driving the truck because of the horrible winter storm in the forecast. Sure enough, on the way home the snow is falling heavily, and her visibility is limited. She undergoes a terrible accident. We also see a horse has died and is almost completely covered by the snow. Sadly, Kelley does not survive.
The acting is solid in this film, featuring Darren Dowler as Luke Mackenzie, Elizabeth Corbett as his wife, Kelley, David Carleton as Isaac, Ryan Carter as the bitter Jacob, and Isabel Myers as Aurora, who is called “Sunshine” by ranch hand and friend “The Duke” (Kibwe Dorsey). Also featured is the late veteran actress Suzanna Leigh, who plays an older lady named Miss Judith, who winds up being a true friend and help to the family following Kelley’s death.
The light and dark side of human nature is contrasted in this film. As the film opens with picturesque views of a mountain, a bridge over water, and horses running, it zeroes in on Longhorn Ranch, old clippings about the ranch, and then current owner J.P. Longhorn. J.P. has an argument with his son, James, who wants to turn the cattle ranch into a horse ranch. He has gambled, and disrespected his father, and they argue. “You’re not going to be around forever, old man,” James says under his breath as he walks away in anger. J.P. calls his attorney and mentions he wants to change his will. He plans to leave the ranch to Luke Mackenzie instead of James. When James sneaks into his father’s office at night and sees the will, J.P. finds him and confronts him about what he is doing. J.P. falls to the floor, having a heart attack, and James refuses to hand him the nitro which can save his life and his father dies.
A song is heard with the lyrics, “Don’t think about those who would do you wrong. God has a plan, just for you.” And several characters in the film will need to remember this when they are forced to endure great hardship and trials. Following his wife’s death, Luke moves his family from North Dakota to Mound City, Florida. Dad tells the family they may not like what has happened, but “God is working out a plan.” With so much on his shoulders, including his son Jacob’s attitude, even the consistent Luke comments, “If this is God’s way of testing me, I hope He stops soon.”
There are several things to think about while watching this film: the faith of several family members who navigate the difficult storms of life; the contrasting nature of brothers Isaac and Jacob; the fact that, despite demanding a portion of his mother’s insurance money, and then leaving home, Jacob ultimately winds up homeless and hungry. However, a former lady of the evening witnesses to him, and helps him realize his need to return home. A book she gives him to read about coming home helps drive the point home. Also, restoration is a part of this story, as well as forgiveness, all wonderful discussion points. Death and grief are also topics that can be discussed with family members.
Despite the dramatic moments, there are a few light moments, such as when Aurora jokes with a friend who is heading to Sarasota, “I hope you enjoy your soda,” she says. “It’s Sarasota with a t,” explains the friend.
The movie has one of the most powerful endings I have watched in a faith-based film, with son Jacob returning home and his dad, Luke, seeing him coming down the road and running to greet him, and embrace him. It’s a nicely directed scene. Due to some disrespectful moments from Jacob, and some drinking scenes, as well as tension between characters, the film has earned our Dove seal for Ages 12+, as it also incorporates a wonderful redemption theme.
THE DOVE TAKE: This one is not to be missed, as it is a wonderful modern telling of the story of the prodigal son.