6/10
Pleasant light entertainment
19 October 2008
This wasn't particularly exceptional, in my view, but was very well done for what it is, as a light comic drama. Yes, it is a feel good type of film, and even commits the sin of having a happy ending. If you would prefer to see a tale of violent vengeance, of some sort or another, this isn't your film. And, if you are a fan of car chases...you may have to settle for a horse and buggy.

And while this has one or two moments which are a bit contrived, or even slightly preachy, or maybe even after-school-specialish, on the whole it isn't too heavy handed. And a genuinely interesting story, as well as some solid performances (especially by Lisa Pepper as Sarah), make this a worthwhile effort.

On the downside, the available material as far as culture clash, individual and group identities, and the relationship with the outside world isn't too deeply mined, and we instead get a surface treatment with a few symbolic moments which seem to be treated as needed plot devices, rather than moments for a deeper exploration of character or human behavior. The story and characters could have benefited from a more thoughtfully developed script in some of these moments.

But the writing is stronger on the subject of family relationships, which is more the focus here than the relationship with the outside world. And the film does well here, exploring Sarah's relationships with her departed sister, with the man who wants to marry her, and with the family she had for too long lost contact with. The least engaging performance there may have been Tom Tate, as Bryan. But while he does come across as a bit wooden, and dull, that is pretty much what the character required. It is obviously part of the message of the film, that Sarah at times hasn't been as appreciative of the plain, but reliable and virtuous Bryan as she maybe ought to have been.

And, ultimately, the film itself takes on some of the same characteristics it seems to admire in Bryan and in the Amish. It is a bit simple, and at times dull, and at others a bit too preachy, but overall solid, reliable, and well intentioned, and able to find joy in the simpler pleasures of life.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised then that this was directed by Michael Landon, Jr. The overall approach is similar to that of the "Little House on the Prairie" series in which his father starred. You might add or subtract a star or two according to whether that appeals to you.

Whatever the limitations of the genre however, this type of family entertainment can be done poorly, or it can be done well, and this example is at least above average.
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