Available for Home Viewing: December 27, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2015
Genre: Family, Christian
Run Time: 98 Min
Director: Carl Lauten
Cast: Drew Seeley, Lindsey Shaw, Ashley Boettcher, Akeem Smith, Meagan Holder, Rose Abdoo, Stu Silver
Spend enough time watching Christian movies, and you'll start to pick up on certain archetypes which appear in almost every film. For example, there's the wide-eyed idealist, usually defending faith against some embittered unbeliever. Others include the wise pastor and the redeemable villain. Tack on tropes like Scripture quoted at random moments, and, of course, the altar call, and, well... now I sound like a jaded cynic. But these devices make for bland and tedious moviegoing. And yet, they've also caused me to underestimate some Christian artists...
On the surface, Carl Lauten's exuberant Yellow Day promises to deliver on every Christian movie cliché you can imagine. Instead, the film draws its audience into a rich narrative where common lessons from the Bible are reframed in a new and compelling background. It's not just a good movie, it's good art, and an example of what all faith-based films should strive for. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. First, we begin with the story.
Yellow Day opens in fairytale fashion, with its narrator detailing the origins of Yellow Day in his deepest, dulcet tones. The scene then shifts to our main character (Andrew Seeley) who is known only as "The Good Man." TGM has arrived at Camp Grace hoping to find a certain girl. Though unsuccessful at first, he manages to befriend a young camper who begins to piece together the mystery surrounding his search. From there, the plot branches into three intersecting stories: TGM's journey through Camp Grace, his initial meeting with the girl (Lindsey Shaw) in church, and an animated drama from the beginning.
Of the three stories, the second is probably the most intriguing. Both actors have great chemistry and play their parts comfortably. Their relationship never feels forced, and the dialogue always stays true to their situation. While the animated portions of the film aren't as strong, they still have their moments. One particular scene conveys a character's troubled childhood solely through music, an accomplishment few faith-based movies can boast of.
Moments like these are what separate Yellow Day from other Christian movies. The film knows how to use subtlety and tact, rather than just dressing the Christian message in the skin of a plot. The truth behind its heroes is slowly and deliberately revealed, and while not every twist works in the movie's favor, it allows viewers to discover the gospel message on their own. The lighting and cinematography in Yellow Day also deserve a nod. With grand landscapes and colorful backdrops, Camp Grace is able to impart a spiritual atmosphere throughout the entire film.
There are moments when Yellow Day is less than perfect. The film's cheery disposition can make it feel more like an infomercial for Camp Grace than an actual movie, and the sudden breaks of animation can be frustrating at times. The climax, in particular, felt incredibly, unbelievably weak. Without spoiling anything, let's just say the story could have been much stronger had the writers decided to take a bigger risk. All things considered, though, it still fits together rather nicely.
With great acting, beautiful music, and plenty of talent behind the lens, Yellow Day is a Christian film for families of all ages. The testimony of Christ is on full display, and even better, its presence feels like a natural part of the proceedings. While it might not win hearts the same way as films like God's Not Dead, Yellow Day nonetheless delivers a promising new film to a generation of Christians looking for faith, encouragement, and fine craftsmanship.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: A character recounts losing his family to alcoholism and drunk driving
- Language: Clean
- Sex/romance: A hug
- Violence/distressing moments: A character comes from an abusive household, there is an animated montage of her troubled family life, a character is thought to be dead.
Publication date: December 25, 2015