No Greater Love
by Phil Boatwright

FILM SYNOPSIS: Starring Anthony Tyler Quinn, Danielle Bisutti, and Jay Underwood, No Greater Love is a moving story of forgiveness and the irresistible grace of God. Jeff and Heather were the "lucky ones." Best friends from childhood, high school sweethearts and married by 22, they were inseparable soul mates. After the birth of their son, Heather fell into a deep depression. Hopelessly lost, she vanished. Ten years after his wife's disappearance, Jeff's world is dramatically rocked when Heather shockingly reappears in the most unusual place.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Let's get my complaint out of the way. The score. There are those who prefer the "newer" praise and worship music that dominates the first half hour of a Sunday morning church service. Others find that music overly repetitive and often insipid, preferring the more inspired and penetrating effect on the soul by standards and hymns. Guess which I prefer? Those who prefer the first category will no doubt find little to complain about. I mention this as No Greater Love is underscored by syrupy piano riffs and a female singer that "Ah"s whenever she runs out of preachy verse. This monotonous musical blathering accompanies countless montages meant to move the story along. At times the film seems to be a sly commercial for the musical CD I'm sure will be released the same week as the DVD.

Music in movies should stir emotions, further the narrative and aid in the film's tempo. There are exceptions when chartbusters are used to score a film (The Big Chill). In that case, the songs become part of the story, a character in themselves, and tickle memories. For me, in No Greater Love, the use of the musical sermonettes is a cheap way for a filmmaker to further his dogma.

I know, I know, "ouch." My displeasure with this use of music is not really a knock on the musical artists' abilities. A great many people have accepted and enjoy this musical style. But I maintain that less is more. A bit of subtle dramatization can make an emotionally profound statement. It's a film; it should be somewhat visual, not just an excuse to sell music videos. There, I've done my job as a critic. Now, despite my grumpy annoyance with this musical choice, I was moved by the film's message and the sincerity of its cast. Many of my Christian colleagues in criticism have lifted No Greater Love up as "powerful" and "thought provoking." I can agree with those DVD jacket quotes. The story has to do with forgiveness and the sanctity of marriage. Like Fireproof, this film challenges viewers to steer clear of secular views of marriage vows, and encourages Christians to enter into the marriage union with a sold regard for the Bible's guidelines for husband and wife roles. This the filmmaker does, unabashedly.

The main point of contention before and after their ten-year separation is that he works too much. At film's end, I see no other income coming in for male lead, yet his wife and the Christian leadership seem accusatory. Hey, guys, that's a biblical role too, you know; the man goes out and earns a living while the woman nurtures the family. There are a few other writing shortcomings, including the rather dismissal way they write out Jeff's present fiancée. That seemed coldhearted to me. But overall, the film does well with a biblical stance concerning forgiveness and second chances.

Rated PG for a great deal of drinking; the non-Christians drink wine with dinner, later on the couch and sometimes when the pressure builds up; the Christians in the film drink coffee rather than wine, but then they don't seem to have any problems . Mainly the film gets its rating for the mature subject matter. The pre-opening credits feature a discordant scene between man and wife. The scene sets the stage, but it will also strike a painful chord for many undergoing marital woe).

No Greater Love was written by Brad J. Silerman, James Killian and Elizabeth Killian, directed by Brad J. Silverman, and released by Lionsgate. The DVD has several special features, including a "making-of" featurette, and a promotional for the organization FamilyLife.