By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
You’ll need a handful of hankies to get through the new tearjerker, drama, “I Still Believe.”
Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin (“I Can Only Imagine”), “I Still Believe” tells the inspirational and true story of Christian singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp, his long journey to become an award-winning and accomplished musician, and the young woman he fell in love with along the way.
K.J. Apa (“The Hate U Give” and TV’s “Riverdale”) plays Jeremy, a confident and handsome young man from Lafayette, Indiana who is the pride of his religious mother Terry (Shania Twain, TV’s “Broad City”) and dad Tom (Gary Sinise, upcoming, “Good Joe Bell”).
They’re happy and sad to see him head off to California to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College. Jeremy’s disabled, kid brother Josh (Reuben Dodd, TV series, “Teachers”) seems hurt the most by his leaving. Yet, Jeremy’s kind gesture assures his little brother that he’ll always be near.
Before leaving, Jeremy’s parents give him a new guitar and insist while he's at college that he write and play music that he loves. Well, while in Cali, Jeremy gets a big opportunity to do just that. He attends a campus concert by the Canadian Christian band, The Kry and goes backstage and meets group member, Jean-Luc (Nathan Parsons, TV’s “Roswell, New Mexico”) who just happens to be his favorite singer and guitarist.
The two hit it off really well and Jean-Luc even gives Jeremy some good advice about getting in the music business. Plus, he offers to listen to some of his music. Jeremy is thrilled. However, his night is about to get a whole lot better.
When he hands Jean-Luc his guitar on stage, he locks in on a gorgeous girl in the audience swaying to the music. Of course, Jeremy has no idea that the pretty, young thing is Melissa Henning (Britt Robertson, "A Dog's Purpose" and TV's "For the People") the apple of Jean-Luc’s eye. Jeremy and Melissa finally meet cute and she tells Jeremy that her relationship with Jean-Luc is “complicated.”
That doesn’t keep Jeremy from pursuing Melissa, but it does slow him down a bit. As much as Melissa tries to resist Jeremy’s charm and those seductive, big brown eyes, it’s futile. She likes Jean-Luc, but more as a friend and doesn’t want to hurt him.
What's a girl to do?
Things come to head when Jeremy and Melissa steal a kiss while in the studio and Jean-Luc walks in on them.
Jeremy is kind of relieved that the cat's out of the bag, but Melissa is hurt and embarrased by the situation, but not for long.
She realizes there's something special about Jeremy and soon lets him know. Their friendship grows and Jeremy even asks Melissa to marry him. That was fast. Their whirlwind relationship even surprises Jeremy's parents and Melissa's family, especially her sister, Heather (TV's "Manifest").
Just when it seems that these lovebirds will live happily ever after, tragedy strikes. Melissa is diagnosed with cancer. Jeremy vows to stay by her side and love her regardless, although it kills him to see her suffer. He still believes their faith in God will see them through this horrible ordeal.
Screenwriters Andrew Erwin and Jon Gunn pour on the drama here especially with the final act involving Abigail Cowen (TV's "Fate: The Winx Saga").
Yet, "I Still Believe" doesn't feel forced or preachy even though it's message of never losing faith in God echoes throughout the film.
I was taken with K.J. Apa. He lights up the screen and even does his own singing in the film. He covers a few of Camp's classic numbers along with Christian tunes like "Find Me in the River."
"I Still Believe" will certainly resonate among its intended audience, but even those of little faith will find this heart-warming story simply divine.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "I STILL BELIEVE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.