"Faith-based cinema" is such a disaster on such a regular basis that it’s almost startling when someone gets it right. Writer/director Maclain Nelson tells the story of Lane (Paris Warner), a 16-year-old girl still mourning the death of her father when her mother plans to re-marry—and a Mormon guy, of all things. And while they’re on their honeymoon, Lane reluctantly agrees to join her new step-cousin Phoebe (Mila Smith) on a week-long Young Women’s camping trip. Considering how many potential traps Nelson has to navigate, it’s genuinely impressive how few missteps he makes: guiding a charming cast of young actors to appealing performances; addressing grief with sensitivity but no mawkishness; delivering comic relief that rarely degenerates into head-smacking slapstick. But mostly, he introduces his faith-based elements delicately, combining a good-natured skewering of certain Mormon cultural norms with a genuine respect for a girl still not sure if she’s ready to believe. While the pacing may get sluggish as the two-hour story slightly overstays its welcome, it’s hard not to smile at a movie that respects faith for its power to comfort, heal and unite.
Director: Maclain Nelson
Producer: Jake Van Wagoner and Maclain Nelson
Cast: Paris Warner, Mila Smith, Clare Niederpruem, Hailey Smith, Barta Heiner and Adam Johnson