“Experience love through the generations on the Western frontier.”
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to become engrossed in Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection. Its simple message of relying on faith, keeping yourself open to love, and doing what you can to help your neighbor is one that can resonate with just about anyone.
Ten years, eight books, and eleven movies. That’s the legacy (so far) of Janette Oke’s inspirational fiction series of books dubbed “Love Comes Softly” after the title of the first book. Beginning with Love Comes Softly, suddenly a much wider audience was introduced to the Davis family, thanks in large part to Katherine Heigl, who originated the role of Marty Claridge Davis years before she made the transition to Seattle Grace Hospital.
Once Heigl got nominated for a Golden Globe and won an Emmy for her work on Grey’s Anatomy, suddenly everyone was scrambling to market her earlier works more aggressively. That led to an increase in popularity for everything the actress had been in, including the movies based on Janette Oke’s books. Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection brings together the first ten movies based on or inspired by the bestselling novels.
Janette Oke has written over seventy fiction books, most of them dealing with life in America in the late 1800’s. Her most successful are the eight-part “Love Comes Softly” series, which deal with a Christian-based approach to love and family on the frontier. They were successful enough to be adapted into movies, beginning in 2002 with Love Comes Softly. Gathered together for the first time in one collection is Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection. Consisting of ten DVDs split into two volumes, they vary in video presentations and audio formats but not in the message they deliver.
That message is faith is the most important thing we have, followed by family, and the definition of family can be expanded in many different ways. It’s not all about blood, it’s about love. These are very quick movies, each lasting just under an hour-and-a-half. They follow the struggles of the Davis family as they face tragedy and doubt, all while holding on to their faith. These aren’t in-your-face Christian movies, full of Bible thumping and condemning people to H-E-double hockey sticks. Instead they are very accessible even to people without the same faith. There’s the occasional Bible verse being quoted, yes, but mostly prayers before eating and when faced with a crisis. People talk to one another about what God has planned for them but I didn’t find the message to be pushy or invasive at all.
I’ll freely admit I haven’t read the books, and I watched the movies in order. While I cannot comment on how alike or different the medias are, I don’t believe you can watch Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection out of order. If you do, be warned it may cause some confusion here and there as events and names from other films are indeed referenced. Also characters are often replaced by new actors from film to film, whether they grow up or not.
I liked the opportunity to get involved with the Davis family and follow them through their saga. Yes, the films do navigate a similar path: We follow one of the women in the family as her faith is tested, and there is almost always a tragedy to deal with. These are definitely family films. Any violence which occurs is almost always offscreen, aside from the occasional brawl. The production took pains to recreate a sense of life in the late seventeenth century and it’s very effective.
* To begin to recap each of the Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection movies, we start Volume 1 with the movie which started it all, Love Comes Softly. Pregnant and with a dead husband to boot Marty (Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up) chooses the only option open to her — marry widower Clark Davis (Dale Midkiff, Time Trax), who’s struggling to raise a child of his own. Originally intending to stay only a season, Marty and Clark instead grow close through God’s word and fall in love.
* Love’s Enduring Promise is the story of Clark’s daughter, now-grown Missie (January Jones, Mad Men) and her struggle to choose between two suitors. On the one hand she has Grant, (Mackenzie Astin, The Facts of Life) a city slicker from back East who offers to take Missie away from a life of hardship. Her other suitor is Nate aka “Willie” (Logan Bartholomew, Love’s Abiding Joy) who can offer nothing but himself.
* In Love’s Long Journey, the role of Missie has been taken over by Erin Cottrell (Guiding Light). Missie and Will are on their own, living in their first house on their ranch. Missie is expecting a child and things look bright. But when they tangle with a trio of robbers (John Savage, The Deer Hunter, Jeff Kober, Sons of Anarchy, and Richard Lee Jackson, Saved by the Bell: The New Class), there is nothing bright about the struggles Missy and Will must endure. However, Christmas is coming and with it hope for things to work out.
* Next up is Love’s Abiding Joy, and we once again find ourselves following Missie and Will. This time Missie’s dad Clark is visiting but the joy at seeing him after so many years quickly turns to grief when tragedy strikes. Everyone deals with their sorrow in their own way but a neighbor’s distress brings the family back together with a new purpose.
* Finishing out Volume 1 is Love’s Unending Legacy. Three years after yet another tragic death hits the LaHaye family Missie and young son Mattie (Brett Coker, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) leave their home to move near Grandma Marty (Samantha Davis, Supernatural) and Grandpa Clark. All Missie wants is to focus on taking care of Mattie but she’ll find that God’s plan may include opening her heart again.
* Moving on to Volume 2 we begin with Love’s Unfolding Dream. While we still interact with the extended members of the Davis family this time around, we focus on Belinda, (Scout Taylor-Compton, Charmed) Missie’s now grown daughter whom she adopted in Love’s Enduring Legacy. There’s a newcomer from New York City, Drew Simpson (Patrick Levis, So Weird), who catches her eye. However, Belinda wants to become a doctor. While sparks fly with Simpson, Belinda won’t be deterred, no matter that she’s told women can’t be doctors.
* Next up is Love Takes Wing, in which we follow Dr. Belinda Simpson (now played by Sarah Jones, Alcatraz), who settles in a small Missouri town as the new doctor. Having lost her husband she has turned against God. When she devotes herself to curing the town orphans from a cholera epidemic, she just might find her faith and someone to help open her heart to a new love.
* Love Finds a Home changes the formula somewhat by focusing on not just one woman’s struggles but four. There’s Belinda, who’s having trouble conceiving, which hits home hard when pregnant best friend Annie (Haylie Duff, 7th Heaven) arrives. Annie is suffering from preeclampsia and hates being mothered. Belinda’s daughter Lillian (Courtney Halverson, Death Valley) is studying to go to college but her father’s new apprentice might mean a new love to compete with her dreams. And then there’s Annie’s mother-in-law Mary (Patty Duke, The Patty Duke Show) who arrives at Belinda’s and tries to take over everything, butting heads with Belinda. The departure doesn’t work as well as the tried-and-true formula, but it still is an enjoyable film.
* Following that is Love Begins, the first of two movies which are not directly adapted from the “Love Comes Softly” book series but rather inspired by them. It’s the first of two prequels to Love Comes Softly. This outing follows the adventure of Ellen, (Julie Mond, General Hospital) an orphaned woman who looks after her younger sister Cassie (Abigail Mavity, Zeke and Luther). Times are tough but when a roughrider named Clark Davis (Wes Brown, Deception) rolls into town things begin to look up.
* Rounding out the collection is Love’s Everlasting Courage, another prequel to Love Comes Softly. This movie deviates from the rest in that we focus on Clark as opposed to one of the women. Ellen and Clark are struggling to pay their mortgage during an unexpected drought. However, a death in the family will set the Davis family on a new path. Add in a fire and Missy (Morgan Lily, X-Men: First Class) running away, and it will take all his family’s faith to help Clark accept his life and embrace his own faith.
Video varies from film to film, with some broadcast in full-frame and others shown in widescreen. In Volume 1 the widescreen is less effective than the full screen, with some artefacting and a more washed-out palette to boot. However, the films on Volume 2 are pretty consistent in terms of both video quality and a deeper, richer palette. The one thing that’s standard across all the films is the audio quality. While it varies from Dolby 2.0 to Dolby 5.1, there’s never a cause for anything above Dolby 2.0, as the soundtrack and dialogue are usually pretty quiet and definitely not something that will tax your system.
Aside from some trailers, there is one special feature. Included with the packaging is a Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection-themed greeting card. Not something I’ll use but fans might enjoy it.
Those opposed to inspirational films will do well to steer clear of Love Comes Softly: 10th Anniversary Collection. Although I found the Christian message to be gentle rather than obnoxious I recognize some may wish to avoid any spiritual connotations in their films. Likewise prepare yourself for a lack of action. While there is drama, there is no adrenaline rush to be fed here. I was easily caught up in the Davis family through the generations and definitely recommend a purchase. With each film taking less than 90 minutes to get through, this is the kind of set which lends itself well to both marathon and repeat viewings.