In my review of 17 Miracles, I called it "arguably the best film yet from Mormon Cinema." As terrific as that film is, T.C. Christensen's follow-up, Ephraim's Rescue, is even better. As finely-crafted, gorgeously-shot, well-acted, heartbreaking, and spiritually-uplifting as Miracles, this new film avoids the other's at-times episodic nature by focusing on a smaller number of characters, thereby delivering a more focused story and more fully-formed character arcs.
Ephraim's Rescue tells the powerful true story of Ephraim Hanks, a pioneer hero who was known both for his willingness to drop everything to obey the prophet of the Lord and for his uncommonly developed gift of healing. The screenplay wisely chooses to start earlier in his life, when he was a trouble-seeking youth, allowing us to witness and appreciate his transformation into an imperfect, but humble and malleable, instrument in the hands of God. Darin Southam (The Last Mans on Earth) is riveting as Hanks; some slightly overplayed scenes early on soon give way to a performance of great subtlety, humor, and deep emotion. [Read my interview with Darin ].
The other performances are likewise excellent. Katherine Nelson (Emma Smith: My Story) and James Gaisford shine as a widowed mother and her son whose harrowing story forms the backbone of the film [read my interview with Katherine ]. Mia Ramsey steals scene after scene as a love-struck pioneer girl, while Christina Torriente exudes tenderness and faith as real-life hero Elizabeth Bradshaw. Travis Eberhard reprises his 17 Miracles role as Albert, small in stature but large in faith and charity.
True to form for T.C, the film is gorgeous to look at and demands to be seen on a big screen if at all possible. Paul Cardall's musical score is absolutely lovely, and the efforts of wardrobe and makeup artists are first-rate, delivering a realism that allows audiences to enter this time and place without distraction. Naturally the film's not perfect; the humor and drama feel a bit forced during the first 20 or so minutes, but once the movie finds its groove it stays there, delivering powerful emotional wallops accompanied by welcome reprieves of humor. As a testament to real men and women who risked their lives for faith, charity, and freedom, and as an expression of belief in Jesus Christ, Ephraim's Rescue is a powerful work that is to be shared and experienced over and over again.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Ephraim's Rescue is rated PG. It has no language, violence, or sexuality. There are disturbing images of corpses and frost-bitten bodies, as well as dialogue referring to amputated limbs and a man killed by wolves (neither of which is shown).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: If we are willing and obedient, the Lord will work miracles through us (1 Nephi 3:7). Charity is the greatest virtue we can aspire to and practice (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). We are all weak, sinful, and imperfect, but with the Lord's help and our continued efforts, we can do great things (Ether 12:27). We are all given different spiritual gifts and talents, meant to be used in the service of others (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Always do good works; the Lord only requires the heart and a willing mind (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34)
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