Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

6.17.2014

Alone, Yet Not Alone: A Movie Review

A Guest Post by Joel

Brutal. That's perhaps the best adjective to describe living on the western frontier of the American colonies in 1755. And that's exactly the feel you get from the newly-released historical adventure film, Alone, Yet Not Alone. Filmmakers Ray Begnston and George Escobar pull no punches depicting the extreme brutality of frontier conflict between European settlers and the tribes of the American wilderness. Only 15 minutes into the film, the patriarch of the Leiningers, a German immigrant family freshly settled in rugged Pennsylvania, is murdered with his son in their family's cabin. And it doesn't get much prettier from there. Burnings of buildings (and of people), close-combat fighting with bayonet and tomahawk, and scalps (without the scalpings) are all part of the story, easily earning this film it's PG-13 rating. But the violence is tastefully portrayed, and is largely without gore.

Barbara comforts Regina
The strongest point of the film lies with the historical account it vividly depicts. The tale is incredible: two sisters (and some friends along the way) abducted by fierce Indian warriors manage to survive and adapt to the lives of their captors for several years, ultimately, in different locations. After a 10-year separation, the remaining Leininger family members are reunited by the film's end. This truly is a Providential event, marked by a family's deep faith in God, and commitment to one another in the face of tremendous adversity. 

A tender moment
But the story’s decade-long time frame becomes a hindrance for modern filmmakers. Attempting to capture such a lengthy historical sequence, complete with the political context of colonial America, is a tall order for a less than 2 hour production. As a result, the film tells a compelling story, but is short on character development. Many of the characters we hardly have a chance to get to know before they're either grown or dead. And in some ways, where the character development does happen, it ends up being a bit inverse to the storyline. For instance, the primary romantic element of the film is between Barbara (the older Leininger sister) and her Indian captor, Galasko, in whom we see a growing affection and tenderness for Barbara throughout her captivity. It is, however, ultimately the unthinkable marriage with her father and brother's killer that drives Barbara to flee her captivity. In her freedom, she is reunited with an old friend from the past, whom we hardly know, and they are engaged by film's end without any time for us to appreciate this rather abrupt courtship.

On the filming level, for a Christian, independent, lower budget movie, Alone, Yet Not Alone, has some great successes along with some notable stumbles. The numerous cast members delivered a mixed acting performance. Natalie Rascoosin excellently portrays the young Barbara. Kelly Greyson fairs alright in her portrayal as an older Barbara, though her appearance and mannerisms probably fit better in a modern chick-flick than a rugged historical piece. Ozzie Torres and Tony Wade made a very strong showing in their performances as the two main Indian characters. Portrayals of colonial military leaders such as Captain Armstrong, General Braddock, and George Washington are all solid, as is the rendering of Benjamin Franklin by Barry Bedwell.

Several minor roles are filled by individuals that many in the homeschooling community will recognize instantly. Victoria Edmonds, one of the stars of the pro-life film Come What May, plays the supporting role of Marie, one of Barbara’s fellow captives. Bret Harris, of the Harris
homeschooling dynasty, also plays a supporting role. The majority of the Doug Phillips family appears in the film, some members with somewhat substantial parts. One of Phillips’ daughters plays the role of an Indian girl who befriends Barbara, while the now disgraced Doug Phillips fills a cameo role as a British colonel. Phillips' noticeable presence in the film, along with that of the young woman now suing Phillips for sexual assault, Lourdes Torres (who appears as an Indian maiden), unfortunately hinders the film’s message, though the movie had been shot long before the Vision Forum scandal erupted late last fall.

Overall, the film’s cinematography and action sequences are impressive. A few blunders turn up (we see drops of water on the camera lens in one rapids scene, and in another, a man just slain breaths, making me wonder if he was going to revive in a few moments). Some sequences were surprisingly unpredictable; others became trite (by the third hunting sequence, we all knew that the camera wasn't actually going to show the animal being shot). The musical score by William Ross is simply beautiful, providing the film with a strong boost of excellence and authenticity. 

And that brings me to the hallmark of the film, the title song, "Alone, Yet Not Alone." Sung by the three Leininger women throughout the film (who each do a fantastic job), and ultimately performed by Joni Erickson Tada during the credits, this song captures the beauty of the story and will leave its message in the hearts of viewers, long after they've left the theater.

Alone, Yet Not Alone will be experienced by viewers differently. Some will be distracted because of how much they know about the recent turmoil in the homeschooling community; others will be critical of the mistakes and mediocrity of some aspects of the film. But others, and indeed, a good many, will be understandably moved and inspired by the story's message, and will recognize that this film shouldn't be scolded, but supported. It is a solid attempt in retelling tales that ought to be told, the true stories of our heritage as Americans and as Christians. And no matter what, each person will leave with the truth in their heart, that when we know Jesus--no matter what the circumstance--we're never alone. 

Joel is a man of vision, integrity, and loyalty who loves the Lord with all his heart. He's a home school graduate and an alumnus of Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, where he graduated magna cum laude. Born and raised in the Northwest, Joel now resides in Maryland where he works as a legal assistant and tries to keep his brilliant writing skills incognito. (He hasn't been successful at that or at keeping his speaking skills off the radio or at keeping his musical talent in the back row at church.) His writing ability, however, does not extend to composing bios, because his version of a bio leaves out all the aforementioned important details as well as other essentials like how amazing and smart he is. Good thing he has a fiancee to set the record straight!

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