My wife and I rented this movie for date night on Friday, and we were both struck by how powerful it was. Fireproof is an independent film produced by a team of evangelical Christians. To the best of my knowledge, no Latter-day Saints were involved in any aspect of it. And it’s just about the best Mormon movie I’ve ever seen.
By which I mean that this film better reflects the values of Latter-day Saints about marriage and family than anything I’ve seen that actually was produced by Mormons. Fireproof treats marriage overtly as a “covenant,” and praises it as a joyful and integral priority in life. Fireproof also makes it stunningly clear that no relationship is whole and complete until God’s love is brought into it. Indeed, none of the relatively few doctrinal statements in the film would be uncomfortable for any Latter-day Saint.
But it’s not a dry, didactic documentary. When Fireproof was released last year, critics panned it, so you know right away that it’s probably pretty good. I was impressed by this movie at both of those levels: its spiritual content about marriage, and its wonderfully deft production values. Though the score is fairly generic and much of the acting is actually done by non-professional volunteers, the story is one of those that’s so fresh, you realize how pale the Hollywood herd is by contrast. The hero of Fireproof is a firefighter, and the film’s obligatory scenes of firemen saving others in a crisis are genuinely harrowing, standing shoulder to shoulder with any other similar scenes on film. The well-placed comedic scenes are funny; a family-friendly sampling of clean, creative humor. And the lead acting is a treat to watch–when my wife saw the cover, she giggled a bit at seeing the name Kirk Cameron, but Fireproof provides a fun lesson for those of us who grew up on 80’s sitcoms: Kirk Cameron is a really good actor.
This is one of the best written movies I’ve seen in a long time, the pacing and structure of the script as worthy as anything you might imagine. And the subject matter really is as strong as I said: for example, this movie very maturely confronts the problem of pornography addiction and its real world effects, and as I watched this I realized that no other movie has ever made this a major theme…probably because Hollywood is too busy helping to create the problem to look outside of its bubble and see that the world needs storytellers to deal with it. Thankfully Fireproof is not afraid to be truthful, and does so compellingly and entertainingly.
Something else makes this a great “Mormon” movie: the plot should sound familiar to anyone who’s read James Ferrell’s terrific little 2005 novel The Peacegiver, in which a man struggling with a failing marriage and the anger that causes is mentored through Christ-centered healing by a wiser, older man who has also been through that trial. The younger man realizes his distance from God and finds that through God he has the power to make the changes he needs.
If any non-Mormon Christians read this, please don’t be offended that I’m characterizing Fireproof as a “Mormon” movie. I mean it as a compliment, not an attempt to usurp a cultural product of which you should be justifiably proud. Though legitimately Mormon cinema has produced some great movies in the last decade, the vast majority of them are, frankly, garbage, and few of them are anywhere near the equal of Fireproof. We Latter-day Saints should take this movie as an example of what we might be able to achieve in film, and we should be eager to take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy a fantastic work of heart by our friends in the evangelical community. Thank you for sharing this gift with the world.