Thursday, December 7, 2023

Movie Reviews: Love Begins (2010) & Love's Everlasting Courage (2011)

After the success of the Love Comes Softly movies that were based on Janette Oke's eight books of the same titles, Hallmark Channel aired two original prequel movies about Clark Davis (Wes Brown) and Ellen Barlow Davis (Julie Mond). 

Love Begins is the story of how Clark and Ellen meet. Clark and his childhood friend, Daniel Whitaker (David Tom), stop in town on their way to California in search of gold. Hungry from their travel, they visit Millie's Cafe, run by Millie (Nancy McKeon) with the help of her daughter Rose (Steffani Brass). Daniel starts a fight with two men from town, resulting in Clark and him being tossed in jail. 

While Daniel escapes overnight, Clark stays to face his punishment. Sheriff Holden (Jere Burns) feels Clark is of good character, but has no way to pay off the damage done to Millie's place. That's when the sheriff introduces him to Ellen Barlow and her younger sister, Cassie (Abigail Mavity). After the death of their parents, Ellen and Cassie are struggling to manage the family farm by themselves. If the Barlow sisters hire Clark, they will get the help they need, while he earns a fair wage. 

Cassie warms to Clark easily, but Ellen is suspicious of this stranger because of his arrest and because her beau Jake Weller (David Hoflin) ran off in search of gold two years ago and hasn't been heard from since. 

Love's Everlasting Courage was released a year later. Clark, Ellen, and their daughter, Missie (Morgan Lily) struggle to keep the family farm because of a two-year drought. In order to make payments on their loan, Ellen decides to take a job in town as a seamstress, which doesn't sit well with Clark's parents (played by Bruce Boxleitner and Cheryl Ladd) when they come to visit. 

Things go from bad to worse when Ellen comes down with scarlet fever and dies. Left alone to raise his daughter, when another tragedy strikes, Clark wonders why God is punishing him. With the help of his parents and friends Sarah (Willow Greer) and Ben (Tyler Jacob Moore), Clark just might be able to find a way to start over. 

In my opinion, these movies are an example of continuing a story that was already finished. While they might answer fans' questions about Clark's life with Ellen, I don't feel they portrayed the Clark Davis I knew in the Love Comes Softly series. Granted, these are meant to be movies of a younger Clark, but the second movie messes up the timeline because Missie is not a baby. 

At the most, two or three years pass between the end of Love's Everlasting Courage and Marty's appearance in Love Comes Softly where Clark says Missie is nine, but Clark would still be a young man by the opening of Love Comes Softly if that's the case. In addition, Clark's reason for asking Marty to marry him is because he believes she can teach Missie things she would have learned from Ellen, but she was old enough in Love's Everlasting Courage to already be on her way to learning some of those things before Ellen dies. We also meet the widowed Sarah (Willow Greer) and widower Ben Graham (Tyler Jacob Moore) in the second movie, and they are significantly younger than the Sarah and Ben Graham in Love Comes Softly, who have managed to have a bunch of children since marrying, so the timeline make no sense at all. 

There is another inconsistency between Love Comes Softly and Love's Everlasting Courage. In Love Comes Softly, Sarah Graham tells Marty that Ben and she married out of sheer necessity, and she doesn't even recall when she fell in love with him. However, in Love's Everlasting Courage, when Sarah and Ben are courting, he declares he doesn't want to miss a moment with her because life can change so quickly, and he is madly in love with her. She ecstatically says yes. They run off to tell their children before heading to the Davis farm to share their happy news. Also, Love Begins and Love's Everlasting Courage are set in the town of Trinity, but the original movies are set in Anderson Corner. So, it looks like Clark and Missie moved and the Grahams came along. Not unusual, but a bit odd. 

Circling back to my point about this Clark and future Clark being too different. Young Clark can't explain to Ellen in Love Begins why he doesn't find attending church services constructive, and that he doesn't even know what faith means. He admits he doesn't remember why he stopped going to church. When we get to the second movie, we will see that Clark's parents are believers, so unless there is some past trauma or tragedy, this storyline makes no sense. 

Even in Love's Everlasting Courage, we don't get the feeling that Clark Davis is the man of faith he is portrayed as by the time we are reintroduced to his character in Love Comes Softly. I simply can't see the Clark from Love Begins and Love's Everlasting Courage praying and reading daily from his Bible like future Clark does; even after his father explains how God loves him just like he loves Clark and Clark loves Missie. Based upon the prequels' character, I can't see the future Clark telling Marty that God has been right beside him all the moments of his life or saying, "The truth of God's love is not that he allows bad things to happen. It's his promise to be there with us... when they do."

Out of the two prequels, Love Begins is the stronger and better movie. Love's Everlasting Courage serves little purpose other than to kill Ellen off, share how Sarah and Ben Graham got together, and introduce Clark's parents, who we never hear about again. Different writers and directors could play a role in how these movies came to the screen versus the original movies. While I am glad I watched them, and I plan to watch Love's Christmas Journey (2011), I doubt I will ever watch these prequels again. 

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.56 x 5.39 x 7.51 inches; 0.64 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 063484
  • Director ‏ : ‎ David S. Cass, Sr., David S. Cass Sr.
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Color, Multiple Formats, AC-3, NTSC, Dolby, Widescreen, Subtitled
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 28 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ November 22, 2011
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Julie Mond, Abigail Mavity, Wes Brown, Nancy McKeon, Jere Burns
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Producers ‏ : ‎ Erik Heiberg, Lincoln Lageson
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Fox

  • Aspect Ratio ‏ : ‎ 1.78:1
  • Is Discontinued By Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ No
  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ Unrated (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.57 x 5.37 x 7.68 inches; 2.4 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 131605
  • Director ‏ : ‎ May, Bradford
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Multiple Formats, NTSC, Widescreen, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, AC-3
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ May 8, 2012
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ Brown, Wes, Ladd, Cheryl, Boxleitner, Bruce, Lily, Morgan, Mond, Julie
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English, Spanish
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ 20th Century Fox
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0078X2A7I
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B005N4DNDY

I own Love Begins on DVD and watched Love's Everlasting Courage online. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

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