Make sure you understand that this film is NOT an attack on God—just on people who claim to love God but are otherwise filled with hate.

Heather Wallis plays Esther—a woman who is so wrapped up in the teachings of her strange little church that she doesn’t realize that it is cult-like in many, many ways.  She is encouraged NOT to think, to follow her preacher’s dictates without question and to see sin in just about everything.  In effect, her life is joyless and oppressive—but it’s also the only life she knows.  She simply accepts the group’s rules and assumes that this will lead to a happy life.  One thing she thinks will make her happy is the marriage that her minister has arranged for her with his son—as women are not allowed much say in who they marry and traditional dating is forbidden.

Paradise Recovered
Directed by
Storme Wood
Cast
Heather Wallis, Dane Hurlburt, Oliver Luke
Release Date
2014
Martin’s Grade: A-

However,  when this son pushes her into premarital relations, the pair are caught and SHE is blamed and ostracized. With no place else to go, her employer and his roommate take her in and show her great love. They also show her a much more worldly view of life and teach her about little pleasures—like movies, music and skinny-dipping. However, after this brief but enjoyable foray into life outside her church, Esther is conflicted.  The church offers security—and all she needs to do is throw herself on their mercy, never ask any questions and live out the life they’ve chosen for her.  At the same time, however, her boss, Gabriel (Dane Hurlburt) has fallen for her and really cares about what happens to her.  With some help from his goofy roommate, Mark, and Gabriel’s father (who is a minister), they decide to not just let Esther get pulled back into this old life without a fight.

This story clearly is a re-imagining of the old Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan.  While the supposedly good people of Esther’s cult have cast her aside and cared nothing for her, an agnostic who is fundamentally decent cares for this sad and wounded woman.  I like the concept a lot and thought the film was extremely well written and engaging—especially since the picture does NOT come off as heavy-handed or dogmatic in the least.  Believers and non-believers can both enjoy the film and the movie does not seem like an attack on religion—more of an attack on dogmatic religion that is bereft of love or true spirituality.  My only qualm is that there is some cursing in the film and I know that some very religious folk who would benefit from watching the film and its message, might choose not to watch it simply because of a few words.  But on balance, this is a good film—and an excellent one to watch with your teens.  Unlike most films, this one seems to have something to say and has a depth about it that I appreciated without coming off as fake or clichéd.  Overall, it’s well worth seeing—and clever in its presentation of a familiar story.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer