“Suffering doesn’t destroy faith. It refines it.”
A phoned in and altogether phony movie featuring stale romance and bittersweet drama, I Still Believe’s canned, reheated and overly processed story consistently goes in and out of tune, faltering nearly every step of the way. Hardly a single second of its overlong run time is believable, making this poorly penned script and its adequately directed true sob story all the more insufferable. I Still Believe lacks brains, a beating heart, and its characters are missing the common sense conviction so easily lost to love and found through loss. It’s a below average movie with above average intentions.
I Still Believe is a film involving – but not explicitly about – the power of song, and its corny dialogue from the start matches the kind of idyllic, pedestrian poetry you’re likely to find in today’s Country or Christian music landscape. Based on the true story of recording artist Jeremy Camp (K.J. Apa), the picture opens with Jeremy heading off to college, leaving his family in pursuit of a higher education and perhaps even a higher calling in the music industry. A particularly rushed and hilariously ham-fisted series of events finds him securing a proper mentor in the successful Jean-Luc La Joie (Nathan Parsons), as well as looking out at a concert crowd and spotting the effervescent Melissa (Britt Robertson). Their gaze connects and their hearts align. They like how the opposite eyes feel on them.
They fall in love. Jeremy’s rising star is on the horizon. Melissa’s health gradually fades like a long sunset. Watch the film’s trailer and you can pretty much pin the tail exactly on the rear end of this donkey. And while that’s par the course for a predictable love story like this one, I Still Believe doesn’t have the character depth or the necessary moments to transcend the trappings which often hold back so many faith based features from telling the hard truth. When the forceful messaging is more important than the people up on the screen ever are, you inherently lose audiences who’d rather learn a life lesson via actions instead of being sat down and preached one with pointed fingers during a crisis of faith.
For how aggravatingly simple-minded the script can be from time to time, I Still Believe actually pulls off some intriguing performance pieces, all of which lend themselves well to the pleasant – if entirely forgettable – songs throughout. Even the chemistry between the two leads (both deserve a better, more authentic movie than this) is enough to spark a few matches and light a couple candles along the way. But then I Still Believe steps back on its soapbox, desperately trying to emulate the live stage work from A Star Is Born (even the poster bears a resemblance) and models its romance around the hokey melodrama of A Walk to Remember. Some of these moments land well. Most fall flat on their face. And the poor pacing of I Still Believe commits the worst cinematic cardinal sin of all: sloth. An inspirational film should never inspire slumber.
“Pick up your guitar.”
Rating: 1.5 out of 5