...shining light on the media, one review at a time
Recent statistics show that nearly fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Sadly, the divorce rate among professed Christians is the same as the rest of the world. With such depressing statistics confronting them, many modern couples run away from their marital difficulties with the sanction of their peers, who have all done the same. But what happens if a husband and wife are forced to confront their issues, rather than flee? Could there be any hope for reversing the downward trend of breakups?
Marriage Retreat dives headlong into the fray of domestic conflict, addressing the destruction of married couples with an unusual attack—comedy. Marriage Retreat’s humorous take on a serious problem is layered over unexpected dramatic depth and packaged in a well-made movie that entertains, as it unabashedly communicates biblical, marriage-saving truth.
Three couples plus three marriages equals…countless problems! At least that’s what it seems like when we meet the central characters of Marriage Retreat. These couples share a mutual friendship and state of marital disintegration, as their relationships rapidly spiral toward beefing up the divorce stats.
First, there’s Mark and Claire Bowman. To hear Mark tell the tale, they were perfectly happy until his wife decided she needed to have a baby. Mark tells his wife he isn’t “ready to be a father” and the rest is icy history until we get the pleasure of observing this show of non-communication. In a comedic opening narrative, Mark gives his insights into not only his own frozen relationship, but also the crumbling marriages of his friends.
Bobby and Melody Castle are struggling to keep both their marriage and financial subsistence because of Bobby’s gambling addiction that has left Melody with no respect for her husband. Donna and James Harlow, on the other hand, have plenty of money, thanks to James’ role on a popular soap opera. The pregnant Donna finds her husband’s growing stardom and obsession with his work to be more than a little threatening, and she reacts by trying to control him, leaving the Harlows as unhappy as their friends.
Enter Craig and Katrina Sullivan. Yes, they’re another married couple, but that’s where their resemblance to the other six characters ends. Sober Craig and spunky Katrina run a marriage retreat center, where they dedicate their time and resources to saving the marriages of others, sometimes whether they want the help or not. It’s a tough job, and when viewers meet Craig, it's immediately evident that he’s burnt out from the effort. Perfect timing for him to encounter some of his most challenging subjects—the Bowman-Castle-Harlow troop that, with the intent of fixing their spouses, shows up at the retreat.
With this scenario, there are plenty of opportunities for comedy, and the filmmakers take advantage of them with a clever humor that doesn’t target one gender more than the other, but rather accurately captures the tendencies of both. Wit and a lighthearted look at reality are the source for the laughs in this movie—leaving no room for disturbing slapstick or crudity.
But the comedy is only half the story of Marriage Retreat, as it’s balanced with practical and biblical truths that are interwoven into both the humorous and emotional moments. It’s clear that, while the filmmakers know how to expose the levity in real-life situations, they take marriage and life seriously, caring enough to make sure that viewers take away something lasting from this film.
For that, Marriage Retreat leans heavily on an unflinching look at what God has to say in Scripture about marriage. Never preachy, the Christian message seamlessly flows with the action of the story, only adding to the realism of the tale. As in real life, we watch the different characters respond individually to the idea of God as they encounter Him at the retreat—grappling with faith, or a lack thereof, in their own ways.
This mix of comedy and thought-provoking drama is no cinch to pull-off, especially for the people in front of the camera. Yet overall, the actors in Marriage Retreat are up to the task. Jeff Fahey and Victoria Jackson as the Sullivans and David A.R. White as Mark give the strongest showing in their roles, providing the dramatic core of authenticity and screen presence. With sound acting, an entertaining premise, relatable characters, good writing, and all-around solid production values, Marriage Retreat is well-armed to lift the hurting with laughter and soften hardened hearts with God’s saving truth.
Married couples who watch this film are likely to be changed and their relationships revitalized, as if they’ve attended a helpful marriage retreat themselves. But by the end of Marriage Retreat, one realizes that it’s about much more than marriage.
Somewhere along the way, the story becomes even more about Jesus and the importance of having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Because of that emphasis, this movie isn’t just for those who are married, but rather for anyone who likes to laugh and needs to get closer to God. Yep, that’s just about everyone.
Check out these similar titles:
Fireproof (Sherwood Pictures, 2008)
The Magic of Ordinary Days (Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2005)
Love Comes Softly (Hallmark Entertainment, 2003)