4 out of 5
Challenges are abundant for those daring to practice medicine in the primitive frontier. Dr. Belinda Simpson Owens (Sarah Jones) has faced her share of heartbreak in losing her first husband and fighting to save lives in a time when doctors are often rejected period, much less female physicians. Now she’s eared a respectable trust among her patients and remarried blacksmith Lee Owens (Jordan Bridges). Together, they are raising an impetuous orphan, Lily (Courtney Halverson), who looks on them as parents. Belinda’s one crack in her otherwise blissful world is an inability to have children. Making the situation all the more precarious is the arrival of Belinda’s best friend Annie (Haylie Duff), who is now married and expecting her first child. During the course of Annie’s visit, Belinda begins to fear her friend may have a rare condition that if not treated properly could result in the loss of either the baby, Annie or both of them, which immediately prompts Annie’s mother-in-law (Patty Duke) to appear at the Owens’ home. A midwife, Mary has far too many “old-fashioned” ideals for Dr. Belinda’s taste and contradicts nearly everything Belinda recommends. The resulting clashes resolves in knowledge to both women … and a potential tragedy.
This series has been wrought with one too many heartaches for the characters -- departing mightily from the author's intentions. This is where scrip writers and filmmakers made the fatal mistake in adapting the series, and have angered many of the book fans in the process. We don't normally see the tragedies, but nevertheless for fans of the original material, the changes and deaths were significant. Granted, part of Michael Landon Jr.’s and other participants' visions probably wanted to create a more “realistic” portrait of American life as a pioneer, but in the end it became more unrealistic than the author’s work. Life isn’t always easy or happily-ever-after. I realize that and certainly back in these times it was all the harder and an illness wasn’t always so easily cured, but that’s a great reason why I watch films -- to be entertained, not depressed. And much of Love Finds a Home’s plots are “too” unrealistic.
At the risk of completely canceling out all I’ve just ranted about, the finale in this otherwise heartwarming series is worth seeing if you’ve enjoyed previous titles. Amidst all the sappy dialogue, limited sets and low-budget costumes there is a charm about the story. It’s clean for one thing and it depicts a family’s trust in God. While it may not be as spiritual as other recent more widely known Christian inspirations, it’s was portrayed simply and it strikes one as a faith people may have shared back in such times when hard physical work was often the only way to survive. As mentioned before, sets and costumes are nothing so extraordinary. And acting was lacking in this adaptation, more so than the former title. The returning stars of Love Takes Wing played these parts better beforehand, while newcomer Courtney Halverson gave a sweet performance as the fiery, opinionated Lily experiencing first love. Haylie Duff and Patty Duke both turned in decent portrayals of their non-existent characters of the titular novel.
One repeat factor in this series is the predictability, since viewers know where the plot is going at all times. The writers do not even attempt to fool or surprise us. Nearly as soon as I heard a newcomer was expected in the small town, I pieced together where that subplot was going to end up. Apart from a heroine in the medical field, this is a completely “new” story when compared to the novel. Nothing resembles the book in settings, character structure or plots, so in those respects this stands on its own. What drives the characters in this story isn’t the same as its original tale, neither are the fears or places the same, but then the only “original” character now left is Belinda. Content is almost nonexistent. Discussion revolves around childbirth and the risks a C-section may cause. A woman offers advice to another woman about “relaxing” before bed if she hopes to have children. There is some mild flirting between a married couple while they are readying for bed. A father reprimands his daughter for not returning home in time after her first courting outing. Belinda and Lee both confess fears that the other is regretting their marriage. A young girl mildly disrespects her father by talking back to him in anger but abides by his rules.
There are pleasant bouts of humor that often fit within the context of a scene, but I’ll confess my favorite story wasn’t the “main” plot, but the first crush Lily experiences; it was so lovely and sweet to watch unfold in spite of it’s clichéd standards. If you are a fan of the original series and are only now just becoming interested in the films, see Love Comes Softly for the most faithful adaptation. Not only is it beautifully told but showcased wonderful talent both in the director’s chair and in front of the camera. It brought the characters emotions to life so well. But if you’re just a casual follower and are looking for something the whole family can enjoy, Hallmark’s Love Comes Softly series very loosely based on novelist Janette Oke’s classic prairie fiction is a lovely choice. Just don’t expect perfection.