4 things you need to know about Lifemark, the Kendricks’ uplifting film about adoption


David is an 18-year-old high school student enjoying his last year of carefree life before venturing into the real world.

He goes out with friends. He thinks about the future. He also devotes himself to his favorite sport: wrestling, in view of a university scholarship.

“I heard there were scouts coming,” he says of the upcoming wrestling championships.

David’s senior season – it seems – is going exactly as he planned.

But then things went wrong.

First, he passes out during a wrestling encounter. And then he learns that he has a medical condition that will end his wrestling career.

This news, however, is overshadowed by even more upsetting news: his biological mother wants to meet him face to face. This heroic woman (Melissa) gave birth to David 18 years ago and chose Jimmy and Susan – the only parents David ever knew – to raise him.

It’s something David spent his teenage years trying not to think about.

“I just put it out of my mind,” he says.

At first, he ignores the thought. Soon, however – with the support of her adoptive parents – her heart begins to change. And soon, he travels to another state to meet the biological mother he has never seen.

How it will go ?

The new movie brand of life (PG-13) tells the story of David’s journey of discovery to learn more about his past. It is the latest film from Alex and Stephen Kenrick and stars Kirk Cameron as the adoptive father and Raphael Ruggero as the lead role of David.

Here are four things you need to know about Lifemark:

Photo courtesy: ©Fathomused with permission.

1. It captures the emotions of adoption

brand of life perfectly encapsulates the emotions of the adoption process – uncertainty, grief, numbness, relief and utter joy. We watch the birth parents – teenagers – process the shock of a surprise pregnancy. We see them sifting through dozens of potential parent profiles before landing on the one that catches their eye. (The expectant parents enjoy camping and fishing—a semi-demand for the birth mother.) Meanwhile, we feel the feelings of the adoptive parents: the ambivalence toward adoption following the tragic deaths of two young children ( “I can’t get over another loss”) and the excitement of learning that they’ve been chosen by Melissa to be the parents of a newborn baby.

You feel empathy for both sides – the biological parents and the adoptive parents – as you encourage David to succeed in life. (During a series of flashbacks, we watch him age from a newborn to a toddler to a toddler.)

Like every other Kendrick movie you’ve seen, brand of life has plenty of scenes that will bring tears to your eyes. One of the best involves David giving a speech about adoption to a large audience (“I’m thankful for the family God has given me”) at the same time his birth mother – hundreds of miles away – is watching. photos of him marveling at the exceptional man he has become.

The film is inspired by a true story and a documentary, I lived on Parker Avenue.

Photo courtesy: ©Fathom, used with permission.

Son and birth mom go skydiving in Lifemark, Kendrick Brothers' new adoption-focused movie set for release in September

2. It was rejected by Hollywood Studios

brand of life producers Alex and Stephen Kendrick have enjoyed a lot of box office success in recent years. Crisis unit(2015) was the No. 1 movie in America in its second weekend of release. Winner (2019), Courageous (2011) and fireproof (2008) all opened in the Top 4.

Even so, Hollywood studios refused to distribute brand of life because of its pro-life theme, says Alex Kendrick. In the final moments of the film, we learn that Melissa almost opted for an abortion rather than adoption. In a poignant scene, she takes David to the site of the old abortion clinic. (We don’t see anything graphical.)

“Many of the studios that have courted us in the past and [have] wanted us to go with them as distributors, they all turned down that movie,” Kendrick told Crosswalk. “They said we wouldn’t release this one because we’re scared of the response.”

The Kendricks chose not to change the film.

“We can’t be ashamed or afraid to share the truth about this — to share a true story,” Kendrick told Crosswalk.

brand of life is published by Fathom, a company run by cinema chains AMC, Regal Cinemas (Cineworld) and Cinemark.

It will be in theaters for a week starting September 9.

Photo courtesy: ©Fathomused with permission.

Kirk Cameron in Lifemark

3. It uses flashbacks and aging technology

The timeline of brand of life — nearly two decades — has presented the Kendricks with plenty of challenges. Do you choose two groups of actors, one for the “young” scenes and one for the “old”? Or, alternatively, do you use computer technology to transform the on-screen appearance of actors?

brand of life used both options. For the biological parents, two sets of actors and actresses were chosen. But for the adoptive parents – played by Kirk Cameron and Rebecca Rogers – the filmmakers used so-called de-aging technology.

“People are 20 years old,” Stephen Kendrick told Crosswalk.

The product on screen is impressive. Kirk Cameron looks like a 50-year-old man and a (about) 30-year-old man – all in the same movie.

brand of life also relies on flashbacks to tell David’s story.

In the opening scene of the film, you watch a nearly 18-year-old David laughing and playing with friends as they jump into a lake. Soon, however, you discover his past.

Photo courtesy: ©Fathomused with permission.

David sitting on the water in Lifemark

4. This is Kendrick’s first film without a Kendrick director.

For their first six films – starting with Flying (2003) and continues until Winner (2019) – Alex Kendrick served as a director. For brand of life, however, the Kendricks chose a different director: Kevin Peeples (like arrows).

Alex and Stephen Kendricks (along with their brother Shannon) serve as executive producers.

Their goal in choosing Peeples, they said, is to help raise a new generation of Christian filmmakers.

“We strongly believe in pouring into the next generation,” said Stephen Kendrick. “We’ve been saying since 2013 – when our church prayed for us and started us [to form a new company] – that we wanted to intentionally invest in the next generation of Christian filmmakers.”

The Kendricks participate in the Christian Worldview Film Festival, an annual gathering designed to stimulate the next generation of faith-based filmmakers. They also have on-set mentorships.

“Kevin helped us behind the scenes of Crisis unit and Winner“, said Stephen Kendricks. “Alex has gone from being an infield quarterback to being a coach on the sidelines. We encourage them [new] guys, but we’re still very involved.”

Even with a new director, brand of life has the same look and “feel” of a Kendrick Brothers movie. It tugs on your emotions. It impacts and condemns your soul. It is centered on the gospel. It also includes plenty of humor to cut the tension (David’s jovial friend Nate is the funniest character in the film). Ruggero, a talented newcomer, is a perfect fit for the lead role.

It’s one of the best pro-life movies ever made.

The film is already having an impact on audiences. During a drug test, a 32-year-old man walked up to Alex Kendrick and said with tears in his eyes, “I’m coming home now to tell my wife, ‘Let’s adopt.'”

Stephen Kendrick said he prays for “the Holy Spirit to grab the hearts of people who look at him” to consider adoption, to reach out to women who are in unwanted pregnancies, and maybe even to start a pregnancy center and/or an adoption ministry in their church.

“The church must stand up,” he said.

Lifemark is rated PG-13 for certain themed content. It does not contain foul language, sexuality or violence.

Entertainment Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Family classification: 5 out of 5 stars

Photo courtesy: ©Fathomused with permission.

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and current affairs for 20 years. His stories have appeared in the Baptist Press, Christianity today, The Christian Post, the Sheet-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.


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