If you’ve never seen the CW show Riverdale, you might be surprised to see how much the world of Archie Andrews has changed since we were kids. Once considered squeaky clean fare, it no longer is. However, KJ Apa, who plays Archie in the show, plays a whole different role portraying Christian singer Jeremy Camp in the movie I Still Believe. The faith-based film is unlike many seen today where chaste romance is celebrated and faith in God is the most important thing in the world. Of course some will scoff at this, but others not familiar with these notions, will take notice. Seventeen magazine already has.
I Still Believe is based on a true story that many people are unaware of about how Camp met his first wife, fell in love and then choose to stick with her when she got deathly ill. Jeremy (Apa) falls for Melissa (Britt Robertson) right away during his first year in college. He falls hard. He is relentless to get to know this girl and she seems interested but there’s this “other guy” who gets in the way. Jean-Luc (Nathan Parsons) is a member of the music group The Kry who play at the college regularly. He not only befriends and mentors Jeremy but he also has a crush on Melissa. This little love triangle is intriguing, but unfortunately there isn’t much to it.
The first half of the story is a happy little romance story that is pretty light and fun, but things turn serious when Melissa is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Instead of running away, Jeremy chooses to stay Melissa’s side firmly believing that God will heal her even when she wonders if she is supposed to be healed. (If you noticed the words “first wife” above you already have a spoiler alert about where this story is going to go.)
KJ shows a lot of range with his acting skills with this movie. He also sings and plays the guitar too. He and Robertson fit together well like a hand in a glove. They have some experience though. They played a couple once before for the movie A Dog’s Purpose. Their love seems genuine and Hollywood should take note that it is possible to portray a chaste relationship that still comes across as believable. And when the story calls for this love to go deeper, KJ and Britt are able to do that too. When Melissa is sick and in the hospital, her sister (Melissa Roxburgh) tell Jeremy that he should go home to get some rest and he says, “She is my home.” There isn’t anything that he won’t do for this girl. At the same time, Melissa is not shown as a helpless victim or a woman in distress, but instead she is portrayed as a strong woman with an equally kind heart.
I Still Believe is a wonderful romance story that goes beyond anything you’ll ever see on the Hallmark Channel. It’s innocent, but not cheesy. But it is also a story about faith and trusting God even when it doesn’t seem that He is listening. How can one trust God when He chooses not to heal?
It is a tearjerker for sure, but I didn’t find the story to be overly depressing. Instead, I found it to be very inspirational and one that I highly recommend parents take their teen kids to. There are messages here that kids won’t find anywhere else and every man, young or old, should be inspired to have this kind of love for their own mate. My only criticism for the movie is the lack of character development of Jeremy’s parents. It feels like a missed opportunity. They are characters that could provide more to the story, but don’t.
Gary Sinise plays Jeremy’s father and a pastor who had big dreams that never seemed to have materialized. The movie doesn’t give a lot of information about this. It would have been nice to learn more about this character and how he still manages to give sage advice despite his own disappointments. Shania Twain plays Jeremy’s mother and like Sinise, doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but what she does have, she plays well.
I guess I will say that I felt that some of the conflicts (other than the issue of Melissa’s illness) are “fixed” rather quickly. Perhaps the Irwins didn’t want to detract too far from the film’s main messages which are presented well in a non-preachy but life-affirming way. Just like the Irwin’s last inspirational film, I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe will change a lot of lives for the better and I can’t wait to see what these two guys come up with next.
Main Image: Lionsgate
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.