Excel Entertainment released information last month about the creation of a new media franchise focused entirely on telling stories of missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Distributed jointly with Purdie Distribution, the feature film, MISSION STORIES, opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, May 7. Showtimes and theater locations can be found by visiting the website www.missionstories.com.
After having the opportunity to view an advanced screening of the new feature length film Mission Stories from Writer/Director Bryce Clark, I immediately recalled a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland at the April 2006 General Conference titled “Broken Things to Mend”.
That particular talk begins with the following thought “Whether you are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or among the tens of thousands listening this morning who are not of our faith, I speak to those who are facing personal trials and family struggles, those who endure conflicts fought in the lonely foxholes of the heart, those trying to hold back floodwaters of despair that sometimes wash over us like a tsunami of the soul. I wish to speak particularly to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair. To all such I offer the surest and sweetest remedy that I know. It is found in the clarion call the Savior of the world Himself gave. He said it to believers, and He said it to those who were not so sure. He said to everyone, whatever their personal problems might be:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
While watching and experiencing Mission Stories these words kept flooding my mind and my heart along with the obvious memories of serving a mission myself.
From the impactful opening moments of the film to the sublime storytelling throughout, Mission Stories delivers a true and extremely honest look at Missionaries and those they teach and honestly, it’s not always butterflies and rainbows. Missionary service can be frustrating, hard, emotional and these three stories told in four parts deliver the goods on all counts with many opportunities to feel the spirit of redemption, the emptiness of sin, the rewards of missionary service and the continual hope of a new day.
These stories from the mission field are all true stories that could easily be developed into a long running television series because this is just the tip of the iceberg in missionary storytelling.
Early on the dialogue seems a bit forced, but that goes away quickly and is replaced by solid acting performances from all the cast, more authentic dialogue as the film develops, and stories that are on the surface quite simple, but with very complex undertones.
Mission Stories is about life changing moments and the sheer effort it takes to leave a life of sin and discouragement behind and move towards better things filled with hope, happiness, and joy. These stories are real and raw with many heart penetrating moments delivered in all phases of filmmaking, this movie explores the pain of struggle and going through those hard things can make us better people.
The very ethereal and moving music helps to channel the spirit, but it doesn’t take away from what is happening on the screen it just seems to soothe the soul and compliment the story and the performances.
The acting from this ensemble cast is top notch with Joshua Michael French, Monica Moore Smith, Nadia Sine, Joel Bishop Shaunna Thompson and Trent Dahlin leading the way and finding the right pitch for their performances.
How does a movie evoke chills and goosebumps? The filmmakers have succeeded in bringing these stories from the printed page of a script to the feeling of a stirring and spiritually evocative believability. Making movies is all about story and what follows is the execution of that story through all the elements it takes to get it on the big screen. With solid screenwriting from Bryce Clark and Crystal Myler along with splendid cinematography from Brandon Christensen, Mission Stories hits all the right notes and tones on what I’m sure must have been a very condensed shooting schedule.
To accurately describe a few of the more memorable moments in this film I can just come up with one word repeatedly, stunning. It is a series of stunning moments that drive the spirit into the heart and cause it to burst with a flood of emotions.
Mission Stories is about overcoming hard things, persistence, love, and miracles. It is about full circles, brothers, sisters, and friends. It is about knowing what you want and asking for the help you need to get there. It is about healing, change and gratitude.
Mission Stories is the most authentic telling of a missionary life and the people they teach since God’s Army 2: States of Grace and the filmmakers should be extremely proud of their efforts and find even more stories to tell in the future because these stories are what we need today, and they are not ashamed or afraid to tell them.