Note: As a young teen I read and greatly enjoyed all of Janette Oke's books in the Love Comes Softly series and would highly recommend reading them first because none of the films can hold a candle to them. But the films are sweet and do have endearing characters and some moments of spiritual encouragement (but not a lot). Both of these films are not adaptations of Janette Oke's wrote but are based on her characters.
This film is supposed to start the series off by telling how Clark Davis (a main character in Love Comes Softly) met and married his first wife Ellen.
Plot: Ellen and her sister, Cassie, live together on their family farm that they have run since the death of their father. After a storm goes through, damaging their barn, fencing, etc... it is clear they will need help to repair. Ellen asks the town sheriff if he knows anyone who can help. Clark Davis and his friend stop in town on their way to prospect for gold in California. When his friend causes a fight with some other fellows Millie's Restaurant they both land in jail and that night his friend decides to escape, while Clark chooses to remain and re-pay his debt. The sheriff decides to make Clark repay his debt by working on Ellen's farm, her younger sister Cassie soon befriends him but Ellen who witnessed the fight in town still thinks him to be untrustworthy. Clark and Ellen become friends after a time and when he pays off his debt he must decide whether to leave for California or let love begin.
Thoughts on Love Begins: I actually quite liked this film. The actor who played Clark (Wes Brown) is more of my idea of what the character looked like when I read the books at first (add a scruffy beard and it's pretty much him). It's wonderful that Clark is portrayed as a completely honorable man who pays off his debts and works hard. Ellen was right to mistrust him and first and I'm glad it took her a bit to warm to him. Ellen's sister Cassie was a lot of fun! She sort of says what's on the viewer's mind and was an unexpected lovely surprise of a character.
Overall this is a great family film and a very nice way to start the series off. It sort of made me wish that Janette Oke had written a story about Clark and Ellen before Marty comes along.
Love's Everlasting Courage
This film is designed to fill in the years between Love Begins and Janette Oke's original story Love Comes Softly.
Plot: Now married Clark and Ellen live on their farm with their spirited young daughter Missie. Times are tough without rain so Ellen takes a job as seamstress in town to help pay bills. She and Clark play matchmaker for their friends Ben and Sarah who are both recent widows. Clark's parents Lloyd and Irene Davis come for a visit and Lloyd helps his son dig a well to water his dying crops. Working too hard Ellen gets worn down and gets scarlet fever which eventually takes her life. Missie doesn't understand when she's scolded for trying to nurse her sick mother and after Ellen's death when she overhears her father planning to send her to live with her grandparents she runs away. Will Clark be able to heal the relationship with his daughter and will rain come so they won't loose the farm? Will they be able to have courage through these rough times?
Thoughts on Love's Everlasting Courage: I knew this would be a harder film to like for the mere fact that Ellen Davis has to die in order to set facts straight for Marty to come in Love Comes Softly. Because I enjoyed Love Begins I had some hopes that this might be good too and when I remembered the romance between Ben and Sarah Graham (some of my favorite characters from the book series) there was a lot to look forward to. Unfortunately this film was quite disappointing on many levels. Ben and Sarah's story goes so quickly and they seem to like each other and plan to marry soon after meeting, I would have enjoyed a bit more to their romance and more kids like they had in the book. Cassie, Ellen's sister from the first film, isn't even mentioned - did she get married or die or what happened to her? Even though Clark and Ellen don't seem any older they have a nine-year-old daughter, who although sweet, is much older than Missie is supposed to be in the book. When Ellen gets sick halfway through the book none of the adults seem to take time to explain the sickness to Missie or tell her how dangerous scarlet fever could be to her (she actually should have been sent away from the farm like Amy March is in Little Women). Ellen dies about halfway into the film and leaves a lot of time to fill up afterward which makes the plot odd.
Overall the film is fine for family viewing but a bit disappointing if you enjoyed the rest of the series.
Do you enjoy reading Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly book series?
Have you seen these two prequels? What did you think of them?
P.S. I'm slowly working my way back to writing more serious period film reviews. Hopefully I'll have something more review-like next week. :)