It's hard to find good family movies these days when gratuitous sex and violence are the norm, and family appropriate entertainment is often of inferior quality. When I discover a family friendly and artfully done movie, I want to share the news with the world. That’s why I was so excited to enjoy an advanced screening of City of Peace’s new motion picture, The Identical. It’s a wonderful movie that’s more than a compelling and emotional story; the film conveys a message of redemption, hope, and authentic purpose that our empty culture so desperately needs.
The film begins in the south in the late 1930s with a young family trying to eke out a life in the latter years of the Great Depression. The wife is more fertile than her husband is employable, and the young father becomes desperate when his wife gives birth to identical twins. Hearing a tent revival preacher one night, the father arrives on a solution to their financial struggle. He’s going to give up one of his twin sons to be raised by the pastor and his wife—convincingly and artfully played by Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. No one agrees easily, but eventually the families’ arrangement is sealed with the understanding that the true identity of the pastor’s new son never be revealed.
I think it’s helpful here to give a little insight and context into the film’s plotline that I didn’t understand when I watched the movie. About half an hour before Elvis Presley was born to Vernon and Gladys Presley on January 8, 1935, Jesse Garon Presley, his identical twin, came into the world stillborn. The Identical, then, explores what might have been if the both children had been born healthy and well: one child raised with his poor parents and the other raised by the pastor and his wife. It’s a thought-provoking question indeed.
The movie brings to mind the powerful verse Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” The movie is infused with this kind of determination and perseverance to do what one feels called to do: to be the man God wants you to be. The son Ryan, skillfully played by Blake Rayne, faces the challenge of trying to convince his own father, Rev. Wade, that his calling is to a different sort of ministry than the reverend was called; the pastor father desperately wants his son to follow his own footsteps into the ministry. The movie is a powerful reminder that we are called to live a life of ministry no matter what vocation we select.
The Identical is an amazing feat of creative power. The Marcellino family of Nashville, Tennessee played no small part in the creation of the film. In a movie synopsis from the motion picture company, I learned that “Dustin Marcellino is the first time director, Jerry Marcellino co-wrote the 20 plus original songs with his son, Yochanan, who is founder of City of Peace Films.” Without using any original Elvis music (for obvious reasons of copyright), the songs created for this motion picture evoke both the period as well as the unique sound and feel of Elvis Presley.
For me personally, however, this created a small challenge. You see, I like many different kinds of music—classical, sacred, Celtic, jazz, bluegrass, U2, etc--but I can’t say that I particularly like anything sung by Elvis. I also have to admit, that I Iike even less, any music that is trying to sound like Elvis, when it is not. That said, I can’t imagine a more daunting task than to re-create the music of a legendary performer like this, and to pull this off at any level is a remarkable success indeed. The movie is more than its soundtrack.
So, whether you like the music of Elvis Presley, or not, I encourage you to watch this film for the powerful message of redemption and hope that it brings. It’s like a breath of fresh air, and I hope you will catch this breeze soon!
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.