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Not always happily ever after

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DVD review: “Love’s Everlasting Courage.” Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. 88 minutes. Not rated.

Whoaaa. Did I just see what I saw? Let’s check the title again.

Yep. It’s one of those stories from the “Frontier Woman” series by Janette Oke, made into 11 films for The Hallmark Channel. But in Love’s Everlasting Courage, the frontier woman dies.

The previous installment, Love Begins, traveled a familiar trail as lonely homesteader Ellen got her man, blue-eyed, raw-boned Clark Davis, as a reward for her hard-working virtue. This one is different. It deals with a more realistic question: What if you don’t live happily ever after?

Because things aren’t going well on the Davis ranch: The wells are dry, there’s no rain, and the bank is breathing down their necks. Ellen (Julie Mond, from General Hospital) gamely pitches in, taking a job in town as a seamstress. But no sooner does she start work than she develops a cough. Sure enough, it’s scarlet fever, and she weakens gradually until she dies.

Clark (Wes Brown, from True Blood) is devastated, but must carry on for their young daughter, Missie — and cope with a fire that nearly burns down the house. He gets help from his mom Irene and dad Lloyd (Bruce Boxleitner from Tron: Legacy and Cheryl Ladd from Charlie’s Angels,) in a refreshing portrayal of parents as something more than senile meddlers.

As in Love Begins, faith and spirituality are subtly folded into the story. People pray and mention God; there’s a cross over the bed; but there’s little explicit. At least until the zillionth failed attempt by Clark and his father to dig for water. Then Clark finally cracks.

“It says in the Good Book that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished. Why am I being punished? … If God’s so wonderful, why do I always feel like he’s forsaken me?” he tells his father — a surprising appearance of the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Lloyd comes back with standard advice to “have faith and endure.” Then he says more substantively, “There are wonders all around, things to be thankful for … The truth of God’s love is not that he allows bad things to happen. It’s his promises to be standing right beside you when they do.” He and his wife, of course, stand as examples of loved ones who stand with Clark.

The answer is no more conclusive than the ones theologians offer when they wrestle with what they call theodicy. But Love’s Enduring Courage at least

Actually, this film and Love Begins are based only loosely on the Oke series, not on anything she actually wrote. Perhaps it’s just as well. When Clark and his family deal with tough issues of real life, their frontier is a better match for ours.

If you want to find out more about the two films, here’s the website. But if you’re more interested in Janette Oke’s original books, she has a website, too.

James D. Davis

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Written by Jim Davis

May 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

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