Production companies without the backing of a major studio seem to be grasping that audiences want films with a message and purpose – one that will resonate with us in ways that the latest blockbuster never could. Not strictly categorized as “Christian,” this virtually unknown film has a message, one that nearly makes up for its flawed story-telling.
Becca Norris (Ashley Kate Adams) is bitter. Her life is nothing like the vibrant one she used to live. Now instead of planning a wedding, she lays around on her couch feeling ugly and miserable with no job or motivation to leave the walls of her home. She’s scared of living. Following a diagnoses of breast cancer and the required surgery, Becca refuses to speak to her estranged mother let alone her best friend and only tolerates her brother’s impromptu visits because he won’t take “no” for an answer. Hoping to inspire his sister, he sets her up with a new computer so she will pick up her hobby of tracing their family’s ancestry. Becca’s sarcastic attitude leads her to appease him and she lists the information that she is looking for on a site, only she receives a reply from someone. Dean Stovall contacts Becca in a friendly email only to be met with hostility. Over time, Becca’s resistance fades and in Dean’s outgoing, friendly letters, she begins to crave life again, realizing that beauty isn’t an outward façade but what’s on the inside that matters.
While visiting the new Christian book store, I purchased this on a whim. Subconsciously, I was sure I’d seen an advert for it someplace and was keen to have a new movie to play. Strictly from a story-telling perspective, this isn’t a bad way to spend an evening. Sure, it lacks flair and the usual “oomph” that so many movies grab their audiences with but something tugs at our heartstrings. Perhaps it’s the “real” way in which actress Ashley Kate Adams carries the film – and it’s no small task since she is basically the only one on-screen for long periods of time, or the script’s honesty, something makes you want to continue on towards the end of Becca’s journey – whatever it may be.
To be honest, I was bored a time or two during the film. It moves at the pace of a turtle and clocks in at nearly three hours to boot. My mom and I were watching it and both of us kept saying, this must be nearly over with, and yet it continued on. It was only after we turned it off for the night and checked the case that we realized the thing had another good thirty minutes. At that point, it was just starting to become interesting, but the night was getting late. The romantic in me adored Becca’s relationship with Dean – getting to know one another through letters was a sweet part that echoes past eras. It was pure and loving but most of all, it was built on friendship. He was there at a time when her world was falling apart – literal distance didn’t prevent him from “saving” her from her own self and similarly, she is able to repay that kindness with something more precious.
Movie-goers who cannot abide films that are slow best steer clear of this one. Its impact is emotional but it doesn’t pack an action punch. There is quiet beauty to it and once those credits did roll on a sudden ending, both my mother and I concluded that we liked the film. Taking a different approach to telling a story should be admired and this one is honest about the aspect of life in which we close ourselves off from everyone – sometimes simply for selfish reasons and not for catastrophic health complications. Some cynics will also find the end result a bit… selfish or perhaps, self-sacrificing is a better use of terminology. If you are someone who doesn’t mind wiping a tear away or acting that is sometimes disjointed, then 1 Message is worth looking into. It’s not warm and cuddly or a good family film but it does have a message worth unwrapping.
(Parental concerns: There is some “blunt” conversation regarding cancer and its surgery. A woman is seen becoming sick after seeing her body for the first time [this is off camera]. Implications suggest Becca lives with her boyfriend on occasion and there are mild suggestions to an intimate relationship.)