An independent film about chivalry and godly romance is set to compete with "Fifty Shades of Grey" opening Valentine's Day weekend in theatres across the nation. The makers of "Old Fashioned," who also created "God's Not Dead," wanted to give movie-goers a godly alternative for the widely popular novel series-turned-film, which glorifies sexual manipulation and emotional abuse.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" is being protested by many conservative groups who oppose the movie's message of sexual violence and intimidation. The series written by E.L. James has sold over 100 million copies in more than 50 languages worldwide. "The message that sex is selfish, manipulative, and even playfully violent will abuse and violate you," writes Marshall Segal, a Desiring God contributor - "In a society that downplays the evil of evil, and even glamorizes it, we need to be regularly reminded of the danger of sin. Like a child that discovers a needle on the street and thinks it's a toy, we can be dangerously naïve about what's happening in our American entertainment."
Nathan Nazario and Rick Swartzwelder saw a void in the entertainment industry and created "Old Fashioned," a movie which focuses on romance and respect - two aspects which help couples to thrive (see Ephesians 5:25-33). "Our hope is that churches ... take a positive stand for love and for what God's intent is for relationships. Valentine's Day presents a fantastic opportunity to do just that," says Nazario, the film's producer.
"Old Fashioned" portrays a former frat boy turned Christian business owner and a free-spirited young woman who begins to understand the value of his ideals as she seeks the Lord. As the two embark on a 21st century attempt at courtship, God brings healing to both of their pasts.
The old-fashioned love story has done well in its preview markets because of the film's message - "that chivalry is not dead, and real love is worth waiting for," says Nazario. Swartzwelder says that the movie is unabashedly sentimental, tender, and sweet - "Also funny and engaging, and very honest about how hard it is to really live out a godly standard when it comes to romance," he says.
Swartzwelder wrote the script while reflecting on the single men and women around him who were trying to figure out how to honor the Lord in their dating relationships. "None of us had ever seen a film that reflected our dating lives - everything was almost void of a spiritual connection, and there was an over-emphasis on a physical connection," he says - "Trying to honor God with your dating life isn't just about not having sex, it's about not playing games with each other's hearts. It's about not leading other people on. It's about living intentionally ... taking this idea of romance seriously."
"Fifty Shades of Grey," on the other hand, is full of manipulation and sexual fantasy. Segal writes, "The sexy, tantalizing 'love' of Hollywood mixes seduction, scandal, and passion. It suggests that the best love is forbidden love. True love - the purest, fullest, most pleasing love - was designed by God for our good, and then displayed by God at the cross. If love looks selfish - if it takes, rather than gives - it simply isn't love." Segal pleads with those who feel enticed to go see "Fifty Shades of Grey" to remember how deceiving sin is: "Anyone who has experimented with sin has known her to be a dishonest and unfaithful mistress. Sin presents itself - often persuasively - as fulfilling, reliable, and enduring. But it never is, and it never does ... Sin promises to produce happiness, but it only creates and multiplies pain, sadness, and need," he says.
1 Corinthians chapter 13 says that love is patient and kind. "It takes time for true love to develop - it's not always instantaneous," Swartzwelder says. He hopes that "Old Fashioned" will encourage young men and women to pursue relationships patterned after the Lord, rather than after modern romance novels.
"Is that really what we hope for our daughters and our sons - 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - or is there possibly a more beautiful way to approach love?" he asks - "Whatever love is, it's about sacrifice and service, and commitment. Having to ... forgive one another often, you are actually moving closer to who God intended you to be."
According to The Independent and Freestyle Co President Mark Borde, Old Fashioned will be "the first faith-based theatrical release to specifically target the underserved Christian singles audience."
Filmakers have compared Old Fashioned's chances at going against Fifty Shades at the box office to the Biblical David's chance at dealing with the much bigger Goliath.
"They will have more screens, more money, more hype," Swartzwelder said in his statement, "but we're hopeful that we are not alone in our belief that there are others out there who desire more from love - and the movies - than objectification or domination".
'Old Fashioned' stars Swartzwelder as Clay and Elizabeth Ann Roberts (Heroes, House, Black Knight) as Amber. The film was shot on location in rural northeastern Ohio.