“Deliverance Creek” — Christian Movie Review
If we think we have it rough now during these stressful times in America, all we have to do is watch a Civil War Era movie to get some perspective. In the film Deliverance Creek, single mother Belle Gatlin Barlow (played by Lauren Ambrose), must defend her ranch and her children against bloodthirsty men, ruthless slave hunters, and double-crossing neighbors. Amidst all of the madness, she tries to hold on to hope, to the possibility of love and happiness, but even that takes a back seat to her desire for revenge when her enemies finally take it too far.
Author Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Safe Haven) was the executive producer, and it was his first film for television. It also was not adapted from one of his novels. Known for his great love stories, Sparks said in a recent interview with Rocking God’s House that even though the film takes place in a different era, the experience of love in the human heart remains the same. Lauren Ambrose, in that same interview, echoed that sentiment, that even though it was a period piece, the spirit of the story still feels modern and relevant.
The film airs this Saturday, September 13 at 8/7c on Lifetime, and you can watch a trailer and find out more details here.
Below is a helpful parental guidance run-down as well as my more detailed review of the film.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: No sex scenes or nudity. A woman straddles a man at one point with amorous intentions, but both are fully clothed and nothing happens. A man, while telling a story about a famous prostitute, uses crude terms.
Violence/Gore: Soldiers shot point blank, a knife is held up to a man’s skull and for a split second we see him begin to scalp him, but the camera cuts away and another soldier shoots the man being scalped out of mercy. Wounded man with lots of blood on bed. Man gets whipped on back. Dead people hang from nooses nearby. It’s in the dark, so it’s not detailed. A boy is shot and killed.
Language: Several misuses of God’s name and a smattering of d-words, b-words, and h-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Characters drink and smoke occasionally.
Frightening/Intense/Emotionally Heavy Content: The film includes some intense Civil War battlefield violence, brutality against slaves (which includes the sight of innocent family members of a slave hanging from a tree), and a sorrowful scene involving an innocent child being killed. The film is clearly meant for adults, not for kids.
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Besides showing us the harrowing adversity that faces this single mother named Belle, the movie throws in many of the historical elements of the Civil War Era: the Underground Railroad drama, the presence of outlaw gangs preying off of vulnerable families who lost husbands and fathers, and the aggression of slave hunters in the South tracking down runaway slaves. All of those intense elements get thrown into a blur of Western-style shootouts, bank robberies, and the flowers of romance that flail to stay alive in the midst of all of the chaos and death.
With all of these forces in play, it makes for an intriguing, thrilling TV film. Lauren Ambrose’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film; she’s got a superb strength about her that just comes alive on-screen.
Worldview and Themes of Redemption
“Judas felt guilt for what he done.” These are the wrathful words that Belle Gatlin Barlow spits out to her enemies. She had just quoted the verse in Matthew that describes Judas returning to the priests to beg for Jesus’ release because he had “betrayed innocent blood.” Belle’s point? If Judas, one of the most infamous betrayers in history, felt remorse, why can’t her enemies feel remorse for betraying her and destroying her family?
The film, however, is not a straight forward revenge drama, as if it were some kind of Kill Bill set in the Civil War Era. There are webs of complication, friends among her enemies, enemies among her allies, and other gray areas that make Belle’s navigation of her rage even more tenuous. Although she’s never able to follow in Christ’s example and wholly forgive her enemies, she sees firsthand that revenge doesn’t always lead the heart down the path that we expect it to.
Like just about every Civil War Era movie I’ve seen, the film has a great deal of tragedy. Something about the Civil War strikes a deep note of loss in our culture’s subconscious, and it drives directors and writers to depict very sad things; the good and the innocent are usually the ones who die first in Civil War movies. Amidst all of the darkness, the film depicts the resolve of a very strong woman who loves her family. To be certain, Deliverance Creek is toned down and kept civil for TV — it dodges the graphic trauma and explicit images of films like Cold Mountain — but it packs a punch, and it carries its own heavy burden of sorrow. It’s not lighthearted, but it’s a well-made escape into the bygone Western years of the Civil War, with some terrific acting from the leads.