Our Rating: 5 out of 5
Reviewer: Rissi C.
Hallmark Hall of Fame films have a special way that can really resonate with a viewer. Valley of Light has this same quality, but this time around it is done in such a quiet, simple way that makes one understand the message and feelings all the better while coming to love each of the characters.
World War II is over, but for those that survived it, both on the battlefield and those left behind to suffer their great losses alone, it is now time to start their lives anew. Former soldier Noah Locke (Chris Klein) returns home to find his former home now farmed by another family. His brother has fallen into the wrong side of the law while he was away. With nothing that can be done for his seventeen-year-old brother, Noah decides to start traveling again. On the road he picks up odd jobs but mostly fishes. Noah meets an old gentleman by the name of Hoke who directs him to his hometown called the Valley of Light, telling him he needs to lose the cloak of sadness that surrounds him. Intrigued, Noah does stop in the Valley and meets some remarkable people in the process, including Eleanor (Gretchen Mol), a lonely widow and a young boy Matthew (Zach Mills).
During Noah’s stay, the lives of the people who live in the Valley are about to change forever. Despite the sadness that they all will soon feel, it is how each of them come to terms with it that is going to be the true test. Watching the premiere on television, this film has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time and this week was finally watched again; this time I picked up on several worthwhile qualities that were missed two years ago. It is so quietly shot that even though there is dialogue, it often feels as if it could have been a silent film. It was all in the way filmmakers chose to tell the story. Its introspective capabilities were something altogether different, but I’ve decided it worked well. We often see the characters (mainly Noah) thinking and just “feeling” things. One of Noah’s hobbies is fishing and because of that we see many a quiet but no less important shots of nature and the beauty that does surround us if only we could appreciate it.
I am not familiar with most of the cast, but you may remember Mills (who’s performance was magnificent; his silent hero worship of Noah was priceless) from Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and The Magnificent Ambersons. Having a lesser-known cast didn’t diminish the production one bit; everyone was superb. Chris Klein pulled off the lead with great ease and each of the characters were so likable you are sad to see the story come to a close. Each of them were real to its viewer, when suffering a loss, you feel deeply for their grief. About twenty to thirty minutes to the end, there is a sad twist that causes distress on one particular character who feels a great deal of responsibility for a tragedy that occurred. Other than the death of a character, there isn’t a lot of content to be worried about. A cow is shot (unseen), we see her lying on the ground while a hole is dug. A suicide is discussed on a few occasions.
Based on a novel by Terry Kay, it is surprising how well I liked it, considering the other two Hallmarks based on his novels are not among my favorite presentations. The wonderful theme of Valley of Light is the beautiful, simplistic message of faith it presents. It isn’t so over-bearing that it makes you uncomfortable but is lovely nonetheless. When Noah states he doesn’t “believe in ghosts,” another minor character replies “neither do I, only angels.” Noah spent a great deal of time wondering hoping to find something meaningful and worthwhile and just as he was beginning to hope, it is destroyed again. The people of the Valley help him in his journey and as Eleanor tells him “Maybe you’ll find a valley where no one has suffered a broken heart, but I’ll wager it will be a loveless place." Life doesn’t promise perfection and there will be heartbreak. Through God’s grace, He can send something or someone to remind us of his ever-lasting love, which is something Noah learns by the conclusion of his journey.
Don’t expect a wonderfully complete ending (as is usual in Hallmark productions), but this movie is highly recommended. If you can watch it, it is worth the time even with the tears experienced along the journey.