We at Blessed is She were given the awesome opportunity to preview a new feature film made by a Catholic indie filmmaker, Tanner Kalina. His movie, Evergreen, recently won several awards (including best actress and best picture) at the Houston WorldFest Film Festival. Knowing nothing about the film maker, the actors, or even the movie itself, I sat down to give it a go.
Any and all expectations I had about this movie were swiftly defied by what I witnessed on screen. This was no shiny piece of contemporary Christian film making! Evergreen is raw, gritty even. The cinematography has a distinctly “indie film” vibe to it. And there is coarse language, sexual situations (no nudity), and drug use in the story.
Being an independent film, it hasn’t been given an official rating by the Motion Picture Associate. However, I would expect it to receive an R rating if it were released on a larger scale.
I may have been expecting something along the lines of Fireproof, but what I got was something a lot hotter.
Paul and Gena are a young-ish couple who are heading to his parents’ cabin in the mountains of Colorado to celebrate Christmas together. Paul is a devout Catholic and Gena is a fallen-away Catholic who, due to serious issues in her youth, has sworn off the Faith for good.
It is easy to see right away that, while this couple is very much in love and well-suited in many ways, their issues run deep and are very serious. Tensions rise early in the film when Gena wants to have sex with Paul, and Paul, as much as he obviously wants to share that with Gena, clings to what he believes and refuses.
This is the catalyst that leads the couple into serious conversations about what they both really want from their relationship and their future.
Talking it Out
Confused and hurt by Paul’s choices, Gena proposes some rules for the weekend. There is to be no physical contact, but they need to have open and honest conversation. The two can ask each other anything—no topic is off the table—but all answers must be honest. No matter what.
Over the next 90 minutes, this couple (portrayed by Tanner Kalina and Amanda Maddox) manages to hit about every topic that could touch the hearts and lives of young singles today.
Marriage, divorce, annulment, extramarital affairs, infant loss, premarital sex, and even priestly abuse are woven through their story and make up the nitty gritty of what they need to share with one another.
It is in their time apart, though, that we are shown the conversations they have in their own heads. We meet their past loves, Gena’s ex-boyfriend and Paul’s ex-wife, and learn what brought them to be the people they have become.
Get the BIS Blog Posts weekly in your inbox!
Another way Evergreen defied my expectations was in its portrayal of Catholicism. Knowing ahead of time that it was a “Catholic” movie, I figured there’d be some sort of catechising or preaching going on.
Sure, there were Catholic decorations in the home. Yes, it was a Catholic church that was shown for Christmas Mass. nd yes, Paul wore a medal around his neck and had brought along a book of spiritual reading.
But what really portrayed the message of Catholicism was the conversation and the internal struggles of the characters. These two were far from saints. They were flawed, broken sinners, just like you and me. They were just two people trying to love one another and live as best they could according to what their faith (or lack of faith) dictated.
What struck me most about this movie is what a real story it was.
I remember having similar conversations about some of these topics with my own boyfriend many years ago, before we were married. People that we all know and love are having these exact conversations and struggles as they try to work out their own relationships.
The movie didn’t pretend that Catholic singles live in a bubble of faithful perfection. Honestly, I really appreciated that.
Instead, it showed how extremely hard it can be to live out your Faith in today’s culture, but that ultimately what you believe is who you are. And to be true to someone else, you have to be true to yourself and to God.
Evergreen was a really good movie that, in my opinion, will do well with both secular and Catholic audiences. The settings were beautiful, the acting was spot-on, and the writing was purposeful yet relatable.
This is a movie that is definitely for adults only (college age or older). More specifically, I think it’s geared toward anyone in the dating world who is leaning toward marriage.
Ultimately, though, my biggest takeaway from this movie is compassion. Specifically, compassion for those who are struggling to live a Faith that seems totally counter-cultural in today’s society. Compassion for those who are living out relationships with people of other faiths, trying desperately to make it work. And compassion for anyone courageous enough to enter the world of dating again after divorce and annulment.
The Bottom Line
Am I glad that I watched Evergreen? Yes. Do I think that the message it sends is important and accurate? Absolutely. Would I recommend it to everyone? No.
I know this movie isn’t going to appeal to all of you, sisters, and that’s fine. But if you can handle a quiet, meaningful, R-rated film that might open your eyes to what a whole host of young women have to deal with today, you may want to give it a try.
Evergreen is currently being shopped around so that it can be brought to the masses. But to learn more, to support Kalina in his efforts, and to see the trailer, click here.BIS Reviews: Evergreen #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for almost twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.