Editor’s note: This monthly series, “5 Family-Friendly Things,” spotlights five family-friendly entertainment choices on film, DVDs, streaming or television.
Filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick are known for movies that convict your heart, tug at your emotions and point you toward a major biblical truth.
Courageous (2011) urged fathers to take their roles more seriously. War Room (2015) encouraged Christians to take prayer more seriously. Overcomer (2019) reminded believers of their identity found only in Christ. And Fireproof (2008) helped strengthen countless marriages.
The Kendricks will release their latest film, Lifemark, on Sept. 9. The good news? It has the same emotional punch and gospel-centric truth of those earlier hits.
Inspired by true events, Lifemark tells the story of David, an 18-year-old high school teenager who is enjoying a care-free life when he learns that his birth mother — David is adopted — wants to contact him.
Thankfully, David’s adoptive parents, played by Kirk Cameron and Rebecca Rogers, have prepared David for this moment by openly discussing his birth history and by championing her heroic role in his life. Still, it’s a lot to process.
“I don’t even know her,” David says pensively, unsure what he should do.
“There’s no rush,” his father responds.
As we follow this emotion-laden plot, we also get to know more about David and his family’s past. He’s a high school wrestler. He’s a talented public speaker, too, and we see that on display as he gives a speech about his adoption in front of a large audience. As he’s speaking on stage, we watch as his birth mom — hundreds of miles away — googles for information about him, thrilled to learn about the young man he has become. It’s one of the movie’s best moments.
Eventually, David becomes friends with his birth mom, Melissa (played by Dawn Long), on social media. After a few exchanges, he decides to meet her face to face. He’s excited, but nervous, about the in-person visit.
Asked what he may say to her, he thinks for a moment and answers solemnly: “Thank-you.”
Lifemark is an inspiring pro-adoption movie that perfectly captures all the emotions of the adoption process — making you empathetic for both sides as you cheer for David’s success in life.
Via flashbacks, we learn why David’s birth parents placed him for adoption (they were young). We also watch his birth parents sort through dozens of paper bios before landing on the mom and dad that became his adoptive parents. (During one emotional scene, we watch a young Melissa place an out-of-the-blue phone call to his future adoptive mom, asking her how she baits her fishing hook.) We then watch David being raised as a baby, then a toddler, then a child.
No doubt, there are multiple scenes that bring tears to your eyes.
The filmmakers, though, smartly use humor to cut the emotional tension thanks to David’s goofball friend, Nate, who is filming a documentary about David’s life and wants him to display more on-screen joy. (“You have the emotion of a rock!”)
The film’s lead actor, Raphael Ruggero, is stellar.
It is the first Kendrick Brothers film not directed by Alex Kendrick (who is an executive producer). That chore went to Kevin Peeples, who previously directed Like Arrows.
The movie’s first hour is as gripping as any Kendrick Brothers film ever.
Lifemark is a faith-based movie that promotes adoption, affirms biblical truth and leaves you wanting to get more involved in the adoption movement.
It’s a film every church can embrace.
Also worth watching this month:
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters/Love + Local (Pureflix) — In Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, a father comes to grips with his now-grown daughter getting married and moving to Mexico. It’s based on the book by Meg Meeker and has the uplifting “feel” of a Hallmark movie. In Love+Local, two morning DJs of a popular Christian radio station cope with change under a new producer. It’s a mockumentary series starring Dave Coulier and Emily Pendergast. Both titles are hilarious, solid additions to the lineup of Pureflix, a faith-based service that has grown its library since being sold to Sony in 2020.
Family Camp (Home Video) — Two polar-opposite families are forced to share a yurt at a Christian summer camp. The film stars the faith-based comedy duo best-known as the Skit Guys — Tommy Woodard and Eddie James — who play the respective fathers. It’s one of the best family-friendly comedies in recent years and includes solid messages about parenting, forgiveness, priorities and love.
David (Sight-Sound.TV) — The incredible story of King David is re-told in this musical extravaganza, which combines live-action, special effects and tunes inspired by the Psalms to tell a Broadway-style biblical story at Sight & Sound’s theater in Lancaster, Pa. David will be broadcast live at Sight-Sound.TV on Sept. 2, with encore showings on Sept. 3 and 4. If you’ve never watched a Sight & Sound production — it’s the best Bible-based musical in the U.S. — then you’re missing out.
Rise (Disney Plus) — A young boy overcomes poverty growing up in Athens, Greece, to become one of the best basketball players in NBA history. Rise is the incredible story of Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who sold trinkets to tourists on the Athens streets and didn’t discover basketball until they were teens (Giannis was 13). Both now play in the NBA. The film is faith-centric — we often see them and their parents pray — and family-friendly.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than 15 years. He is the husband to Julie and the father of four young children.