When life’s sorrows bring us into shadowlands, we need the joy of Christ to restore our strength. We tap into this joy by nurturing a deeper longing for God. Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing takes you on a quest for joy and a life-changing longing for God.
Written by a C. S. Lewis expert and a skilled composer, the book explores 18 beloved C. S. Lewis classics, from Narnia to Mere Christianity, and 13 spiritual principles behind the art of songwriting, as seen in 13 studio albums by U2–all to answer one question: how do we experience deeper joy in our relationship with Christ during times of sorrow and trial?
Shadowlands is available to pre-order at Amazon or ChristianBooks.com. If you pre-order a copy, the author will personally email you with a thank-you note and a copy of his upcoming e-book devotional “Devotions with Tolkien,” which uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” and Scripture. (This is all on the honor system: simply pre-order Shadowlands, and then send an email to shadowlands2016 (at) gmail (dot) com letting the author (Kevin Ott) know you’ve ordered it, and he will contact you.)
Text LIGHT to 54900 to get a preview of Shadowlands and Songs of Light.
[Parent’s Content Advisory at bottom of review.]
Entertainment Value, Film Craft
This film is delightfully 1980s through and through, from the eighties fonts in the credits to the music, which is slathered in enough synth work to make any ’80s music enthusiast feel as if they’ve stepped into a snowy keyboard synth paradise.
As I already mentioned in the intro, unless you’ve managed to avoid watching movies in general for your entire life, the plot of the film is a predictable against-all-odds underdog story. Critics will surely be flippant about it because it is so formulaic, but I think it’s forgivable for three reasons:
1. The casting and the acting performances worked well. Taron Egerton’s transformation into the movie’s determined-but-inept rendition of Eddie the Eagle was delightful and contagious with enthusiasm. Hugh Jackman, a master of his craft (I still tear up when I remember his performance in “Les Miserables”), and the always awesome Christopher Walken add a layer of gravity and meaning to the story that balances its Eddie the Eagle glee.
2. As mentioned in the intro, the whole film is contagious with its enthusiasm. It’s very hard to resist. It doesn’t try to hide that it’s embracing a cliched underdog sports story. Instead of being bashful about it, it embraces the formula with all of its heart. You know you’re being set up for a big, cheering moment at the end, but the film’s tone is winning and earnest that you don’t really mind. You just dive in with Eddie.
3. Speaking of diving in with Eddie: the visual shots of the actual ski jumping are superb. I felt as if I were flying. I wasn’t even watching it in 3-D. With or without 3-D, the cinematography is so good that you will get the heebie jeebies when you’re at the top of the ski jump, ready to go down.
My only complaint with the film craft was its slow pace in the first act. I wonder if the childhood portion could have been abbreviated. I kept imagining the movie starting at the ski jump training center in Germany. [In my pretend version, Eddie shows up and no one, including the audience, knows anything about who he is and why he has randomly showed up to pester Bronson and the other ski jumpers, but then we learn more about him in flashbacks as he pleads with Bronson Peary to train him.]
Hmmm, well, my version is formulaic too, but I think it would have moved us through the first act of the story with better tension. Don’t you hate it when critics think they can make movies better than professional filmmakers? I know, I know, it’s really annoying. I’m caught red-handed. But I just couldn’t help myself. In a way it’s a reflection of how much I enjoyed the story because I kept imagining all the different ways we could have been brought into the storyline.
There were some endearing moments in the childhood section though, I will admit it, and there are some elements that we would’ve lost if they did it my way. His mother’s undying support melts the heart and turns you into a cheerleader for Eddie like her, for example.
Themes of Redemption
Two clear storylines of redemption (with SPOILER ALERTS):
One: Eddie the Eagle has been shut down and ignored his entire life–even, to some extent, by those closest to him. Every door that the world could slam in his face it has slammed with relish, and everyone who has ever had the chance to say no to him has shouted a big fat, “No!” Eddie’s redemption comes, of course, in proving all of them wrong and never giving up no matter what it takes. It’s hugely inspiring. But his redemption also comes when he resists the temptation to settle for something less than his absolute best. When he finally takes that fateful turn to do the most courageous, serious (and dangerous) thing, he has his moment of redemption.
Two: Bronson Peary, played wonderfully by Hugh Jackman, is a has-been ski jumping superstar who had the talent to do phenomenal things, but squandered it on wild living. It’s a modern version of the prodigal son. He takes his inheritance–his wonderful talent–and uses it to live a life that eventually expels him from his “father’s house,” which, in this case, is master ski jumping coach Warren Sharp. In the process, Peary has become something of an alcoholic. He never wears a jacket. Instead he carries his flask of alcohol at all times and refers to the flask as “his jacket.” Peary’s redemption comes when he finally does something worthy of his talent when he chooses to do the impossible and train Eddie the Eagle for the highest level. Not only does his path to redemption lead to a restored relationship with Warren Sharp, but it liberates him from alcohol, and he finally ditches his liquid “jacket.”
These themes of redemption were inspiring and edifying to the spirit, and they elevated the movie.
That being said, the PG-13 film does have strong sexual themes in it. I wish they would have skipped that content and brought it down to a PG rating because it would’ve been a fantastic all-ages family movie if they had. Definitely don’t bring kids under 13 to it, and adults can review the following content advisory to determine if it’s something within their comfort level of moviegoing:
Content Advisory for Parents for this PG-13 film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: There are no sex scenes in the film. (In fact, as I think of it, there are no romantic relationships
at all in the story.) The suggestive sexual content comes in a few situational comedic scenes. The most prominent one is when Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) is teaching Eddie the Eagle how to launch from the ski jump. Peary uses all of the phases of sex, from foreplay to climax, to give an analogy for doing the jump. Peary asks Eddie to think of a girl that he fantasizes about, in Eddie’s case Bo Derek, and instructs Eddie to pretend he is having sex with her as the instruction for how he should do the jump. Jackman musters up his comedic skills to act out all of the phases of making love to Bo Derek, complete with shouting at climax, to give the sexually innocent/unexperienced and stunned (and very uncomfortable) Eddie a lesson on launching into the ski jump. It is Hugh Jackman’s Meg Ryan-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally moment. In other scenes, the Norwegian ski jumpers and their Norwegian-influenced love for being naked at all times, is played for laughs and poked fun at. In a sauna scene, however, the audience sees several of the Norwegian men completely naked, but the angles of the camera and the way the men sit just barely hide the frontal and rear nudity (just barely). It’s meant to show Eddie’s discomfort (because it makes him really uncomfortable and adds to his fish out of water feeling), but I think it leaves very little to the imagination because the camera lingers on their bodies, and it ends up being a strongly sensual scene, visually.
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: Ski jumpers wreck, and we see them tumble and crash, and we see them groan afterward, but there’s no blood or gore.
Language: A scattered amount of swear words (mostly a-words, d-words, h-words), perhaps a couple misuses of God’s name, but no f-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Bronson Peary drinks throughout the film and smokes. The drinking, however, is a part of his redemption story, as he learns to overcome his dependence on the drink.