Redeeming Love Movie Review (by a longtime fan of the book)

Written by Michelle Watson

January 23, 2022

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I live in a tiny town way up in the mountains. We have two small cinemas, and I wasn’t expecting either of them to show the Redeeming Love movie on opening weekend. So, when I saw that one of them WAS, well, I immediately fired off emoji-filled texts to my girlfriends. A whole gaggle of us rearranged our schedules so we could see it together on opening day. 

I read the Redeeming Love book when I was in my early twenties. It made a huge impression on me. My friends read it, and we discussed it, talking about Angel like she was a real person. Over the years, I’ve bought at least a dozen copies to give away to fellow readers.

So, when I heard that Redeeming Love was being made into a movie, I immediately thought, “Oh, I hope they don’t ruin it! Is Francine Rivers involved at all?” 

Did the movie ruin the book? Was it any good?

I’ve got crazy, opinionated ideas about it all. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What is Redeeming Love about?

The Redeeming Love book is a Christian, historical romance novel. 

The story takes place in Pair-a-Dice, a fictional town in the California Gold Country in 1850. It’s a settlement full of men hoping for a lucky strike of gold—and to get lucky with Angel, the most expensive prostitute at the town brothel.

The horrific backstory that brought Angel to the brothel left her scarred, jaded, and ruthless. She’s also powerless. Although men fall at her feet, she’s essentially a prisoner of the Dutchess, the wicked-stepmother-y brothel owner.

Enter The Hunk. Michael Hosea is a devout young farmer who has a close relationship with Jesus Christ. God calls Michael to marry Angel. So he plunks down some gold dust to get into her bedroom, and he propose marriage—with his pants up the whole time. Angel, distrustful to the core, wants nothing to do with him. 

Then, things happen…I won’t spoil it. But, ultimately, Angel comes to understand redeeming love. Not romantic love, but heavenly love from God, the Father. 

There’s a tiny little Redeeming Love book summary for ya!

Who wrote Redeeming Love?

Francine Rivers is the author of Redeeming Love. She’s got an interesting backstory. She started out as a successful romance novelist. When she came to Christ, she stopped writing mainstream romance and transitioned to Christian romance instead. Redeeming Love was her “statement of faith.” The rest is history.

“I still consider myself a struggling Christian, fraught with faults and failures, but Jesus has given me the tool of writing to use in seeking answers from Him. God is patient with me, and through the study of His Word, I am learning what He wants to teach me. When I hear from a reader who is touched by one of my stories, it is God above, and He can use anything to reach and teach His children – even a work of fiction.”

Francine Rivers

Is Redeeming Love well written?

This book is written in good, genre-level craft. It’s not literary. But, for a lot of readers, that’s good. It’s easy to comprehend everything at face value, and your eyes race across the page with no friction. But, it’s not language to linger over.

Rivers’s real gift is for storytelling. Redeeming Love is such a compelling story—and that’s what makes it unforgettable, not the writing. 

When was Redeeming Love first published? 

The novel was first published in 1991. You can view a handy list of all the various print and audio editions on the author’s website. I actually owned an old-school copy, you guys! The cover looked like this:

I’m pretty sure I let someone borrow it and never got it back. (Wah-wah.) Anyhow, the book grew to become a bestseller, and now it stands as a classic that defines the genre.

Is Redeeming Love religious? (And what kind of religious?)

You betcha it’s religious. Redeeming Love doesn’t pay lip service to Christianity. There are many Christian books (songs, movies, etc.) that have the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power (2 Tim 3:15). Redeeming Love is NOT that. This book is all about the power of God speaking to people and accomplishing the impossible.

The faith expressed in this book felt deeply familiar to me when I first read it. It was like Rivers struck a chord that had been fashioned within me long ago, making new music I could’ve sworn I’d heard before.

I was raised in the Christian faith by parents who not only believed but acted on that belief and allowed it to shape our family. I was taught to believe in the miraculous. Hearing God’s voice, seeing His hand move in a situation, feeling His prompt (or shove), witnessing a healing of body, mind, or spirit…these are things that I grew up seeing in our small church congregation. I was accustomed to hearing church members share dreams they’d been given by God. Some had visions. Others were healed of physical sicknesses, even things like cancer.

Seeing this type of faith reflected in Redeeming Love was such a blessing to me. I felt like shouting, “I know these characters! I’ve known them all my life!”

What is Redeeming Love based on?

Francine Rivers loosely based Redeeming Love on the Book of Hosea in the Bible. That’s why Michael’s last name is Hosea—nod, nod. God called the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Like Angel, Gomer wasn’t faithful to Hosea, but God called him to be faithful to her and love her no matter what, reflecting the way God loves His people Israel, even though they whored after idols—the Bible’s language, not mine (Judges 2:17).

I could never relate to the biblical Gomer. Why did she keep running away from her husband who loved her? Having sex with randos. Abandoning her kids. What’s wrong with her? Well, the character of Angel helped me “see” Gomer. 

Rivers puts Angel through hell, and Angel makes decisions based on her horrible past, what life has taught her to do. Once I got sucked into the story, Angel’s actions (running, returning to sin) seemed logical from her worldly and wounded perspective. 

It’s Michael Hosea who is the unbelievable one, ha!

Redeeming Love movie review

I confess. Over the years, I’ve searched the internet for “Is Redeeming Love a movie?” This would make such a good movie, I’d pine to myself. So, when my sister-in-law broke the news that a film was really-n-truly in the works, we both marked the news as “important” and kept it on our radar. As I mentioned, we saw the movie opening weekend.

My verdict: GO SEE IT. 

Here’s the Redeeming Love movie trailer.

A few cautions: Anyone under the age of, gosh, I dunno, 16 should not watch it due to the sex stuff. People who haven’t read the book and aren’t prepared ahead of time for the subject matter may clutch their pearls and cry, “What is this smut?!” 

This movie is not perfect. Diehard fans of the novel may nitpick at some of the changes. But it’s a solid rendering of the novel, remaining true to the central theme of God’s redemptive love. It’s entertaining, visually beautiful, and the romance totally fogs glass. 

ALSO…There are some general spoilers head.

Redeeming Love cast—yay or nay?

In terms of appearance, the actors are all spot-on in my opinion. 

I could not stop looking at Abigail Cowen when she was onscreen. She’s a breathtaking Angel. And she’s got just enough grit to her. Despite her beauty, you can easily imagine her being on the verge of committing some criminal act. 

Tom Lewis, who plays Michael, is the perfect mix of manliness and gentleness. And Eric Dane is chilling as the Duke—a suave gentleman on the outside and a devil on the inside. 

By far, the best acting came from Logan Marshall-Green, who plays Paul, troubled brother-in-law to Michael. This guy lit up the screen.

Did the Redeeming Love movie stay true to the book?

Yes! Francine Rivers was highly involved in the script, so I heard in an interview she did. Of course, they couldn’t squeeze in every last detail from the book, but they hit all the critical plot points. There were a few key scenes that they streamlined and remade, mostly for clarity’s sake, I think. 

The most significant alteration (for me) was the climactic scene when Duke forces Angel onstage at his burlesque theater, and she exposes his perverted preference for small girls. I was really looking forward to her singing Rock of Ages, which got cut. The escape is different, and the book version is much more satisfying.

The film didn’t convey as much of the supernatural element as I thought it might. It’s hard to portray the Holy Spirit’s nudges. In the book, Rivers puts the Holy Spirit in bold, so it’s very clear.

Just come out with it. Is Redeeming Love cheesy? 

Devoted Christian moviegoers know that cheesiness comes with the territory. We suffer it because we want good, clean movies that reflect our values.

Redeeming Love does have cheese. But not a lot. It’s a 5 out of 10 on the Cheese-O-Meter. It doesn’t ruin the movie by any means. 

The character of Michael tipped the scales of cheesiness for me. It felt like they were trying a little too hard to make him normal. Sometimes there’s an undertone in Christian movies that seems to beg, “Please, don’t think we’re weird! We belong at the cool kids’ table, we do.” I can’t quite put my finger on it. 

I would’ve liked Michael to have a slightly harder edge—even to come across as unlikeable sometimes. He needs the flint that comes with setting your face toward God.

Have there been bad reviews of the Redeeming Love movie?

Predictably, yes. The Daily Beast called it patriarchal because Angel’s whole “problem” is that she won’t submit to Michael’s “ownership” of her as his wife. Many of the plot elements, including the overall theme, just don’t make sense outside of the allegory it’s trying to portray. When viewed through worldly eyes, it doesn’t make sense. 

For example, the Beast asserts that Michael plucks Angel out of her prison because her beauty catches his eye. That’s not exactly it. Michael never would’ve pursued her if God hadn’t prompted him to do so. He would’ve oogled her and went back to the farm. 

There’s also the opinion that Angel moves from one type of slavery (prostitution) to another type of slavery (marriage). But no, she finds freedom and healing in her marriage. It’s not the freedom to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, however she wants. It’s freedom from the weight of sin and the price it demands.

The Beast also says that the narrative promotes the prosperity sex gospel, which the columnist defines like this: “The promise suggests that God has an erotic future with a hot spouse planned for those who devoutly follow His rules, primarily if they abstain from premarital copulating.” 

No. The novel doesn’t promise this, and anyone who thinks that God promises this is wrong. But there is great beauty in following God’s design for marriage. There are great rewards. Not glossy, glittery Hollywood rewards, but true blessings that you can hold on to, that won’t move when the world tilts sideways. (If the storyline toed the line of the prosperity sex gospel, then Angel never would’ve ended up with Michael, and Paul never would’ve married Miriam.)

The Washington Post said, “Redeeming Love is an incident-rich saga populated by cardboard heroes and villains and outfitted with greeting-card sentiments and cartoon villainy.” And they said the Christian messaging is, uh, shall we say, heavy-handed.

Okay, that’s not completely off base, ha. But this is NOT your family-friendly, feel-good popcorn film. This movie is tough to watch at times. I wouldn’t unwind with it after a long day. I certainly wouldn’t equate it with a greeting card.

What is Redeeming Love rated, and what are the content warnings?

This film is rated PG-13, and I must say, it’s a mature PG-13. 

There is sex all ova’ the place. It’s about a prostitute, people. What do you expect? I will say that the sex scenes do NOT depict the full and complete act. There is no below-the-belt nudity. But it does push beyond the boundary of “fade to black immediately after they start kissing.”

On the good side, it shows Angel and Michael making love and enjoying it. Honestly, I don’t think this is necessarily bad if the intent is to balance out all of the glorified bad sex that mainstream movies bring to the table. 

Angel also appears topless in several scenes, with only her long, blonde hair covering her secondary sex characteristics. 

Here’s my bottom line: If you’ve seen any of the raunchy Netflix/Amazon Originals, there’s nothing in this that you haven’t seen before.

Also, dudes throw punches, sometimes abusively. Characters die onscreen, sometimes in gristly ways. 

PluggedIn by Focus on the Family does a great job of spelling out the sex scenes, nudity, and violence. If you need to know ahead of time exactly what to expect, then read this review

What about trigger warnings for Redeeming Love? 

Um, it will probably trigger any type of traumatic experience you’ve ever had in your life. I’m not sure if there is a trauma it doesn’t include in some way. Even little ol’ me…I suffered from infertility for years, and there were scenes that played that note.

Is Redeeming Love mommy porn?

What’s mommy porn?!?! It’s Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s Game of Thrones. (At least, I think it is…I haven’t watched or read either myself, just rumors, lol!) It’s when a mainstream book or show—the kind you can read in public and discuss with your coworkers—displays explicit sex acts for the purpose of getting the average person all steamed up. It’s porn that’s “fine” for even a mom to watch on a Saturday night with other moms. 

No, Redeeming Love is not mommy porn. 

In fact, it’s a great romance to get back into reading, especially if you’ve been in a slump and need something inspiring.

Where can I watch Redeeming Love movie?

At the moment, it’s only available to watch in theaters, but it’ll be available to stream no doubt. Since it’s a Universal picture, I read that Peacock will likely be the first platform to offer streaming.

What about you?

What did you think of the Redeeming Love movie? Drop me a comment 👇👇 with your thoughts. I love to talk books (and screen adaptations). 

More along these lines…

Book Reviews for June 2022

Book Reviews for June 2022

Book reviews for June 2022 are in! One divine classic, plus several cozy romances, and some literary novels that gave me mixed feelings.

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