MOVIE | The Kendrick brothers’ latest film suffers from saccharine scenes but shows the power of choosing life over death
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➤ Rated PG-13
High school student David Colton’s parents adopted him as a baby, and he doesn’t like to talk about it. Sure, he loves his adoptive mom and dad and has a happy life, but he’s afraid of being different. So when his parents receive a voicemail from the adoption agency soon after his 18th birthday, it rocks his world. His birth mom, Melissa, has updated her records, and he’s now old enough to contact her. David has to decide: Does he want her in his life?
In their new feature film Lifemark, Christian filmmakers Kirk Cameron and the Kendrick brothers follow David’s journey to meet his birth parents for the first time as he comes to terms with what it means to be an adopted child. It’s a touching tale about the beauty of an unplanned life, but the presentation doesn’t do justice to the true story behind it.
The drama, rated PG-13 for thematic elements (mostly involving a non-graphic visit to an abortion facility), parallels the real-life story of David Scotton. Scotton, adopted in the 1990s by a Louisiana couple who couldn’t have children of their own, traveled to meet his Indiana birth parents in 2013. Filmmaker Philip Braun captured that reunion for the 2018 documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue. It features emotional interviews with David, his birth parents, and his adoptive parents.
In that documentary, viewers see birth mom Melissa’s tears as she remembers being a teen who almost aborted unborn David. They see the striking similarities between David and his initially distant birth father Brian—the nose, the forehead, the mouth—and Brian’s eventual pride that his birth son looks like him. They see David sob before he leaves to visit Brian and Melissa, as his adoptive parents reassure him that they don’t love him any less because he’s not their biological child.
Lifemark touches on but fails to capture these and other elements that the documentary depicts. Also, cringey acting detracts from some of the most touching moments. And because of some changes to the actual order of events, the film also lacks crucial character development, and saccharine scenes can’t compare with the real story’s rawness.
Despite all of this, the movie might still elicit a few tears because it shows the power of choosing life over death. Viewers who have seen the documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue will notice in Lifemark cameo appearances by David, his adoptive mom, and his birth mom. Those cameos are a reminder of how, in this case, the choice of one teenage mom has influenced a multitude.
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