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The Shunning (2009) / The Confession (2013)


Reading Amish fiction is not where my attention begins or ends. Since the rising arrival of popular authors who are writing (sometimes exclusively) in the genre, it was just a matter of time before the television networks distributed films based on those records. These corresponding films are based on an early series by Beverly Lewis of the same name and even though they get lost in flaws, they’re interesting. 

Growing up in Amish country, Katie Lapp (Danielle Panabaker) has been given a loving, warm home by parents (Sandra W. Van Natta, Bill Oberst Jr.) who have raised her in love and supported her, only now, her father, Samuel is expecting Katie to give up her fanciful musical passions – a passion that goes against the Amish faith, and marry the Bishop. Still mourning the loss of her childhood sweetheart, Katie fights settling into what is expected of her and finding her own identity. When the secrets of Katie’s parentage are unearthed, her fight to learn about herself is solidified when she learns her birth mother Laura (Sherry Stringfield) was searching for Katie, wishing to meet her now 20-something daughter.  

Against her parent’s better judgment but eventually with their blessing, Katie (Katie Leclerc) travels to New York to look for her mother. Armed with her faith and the friendship of Justin (Michael Rupnow) – the young man running her mother’s charitable foundation, Katie finds herself on a journey that leads to more confessions and finding what her place in the world is.

Walking into a bookstore – particularly when browsing the religious shelves or trolling Christian internet retail stores will reveal that Amish fiction is solidly popular. Within a two-week timeframe, I finally got around to watching these – The Shunning and The Confession, Hallmark channel productions based on two of the three novels by Lewis. Instead of writing the reviews separately, I decided to bundle them together, which will be efficient if not a cohesive collective of my thoughts regarding both stories. In cinema form, these adaptations are sweet (haven’t read the books myself, though my mother has) telling a kind of coming-of-age experience that isn’t done in the usual form of teenage rebellion or the always stereotyped losing oneself in wild shenanigans before healing inspires a decision for self-betterment. Though that omission is refreshing, if you are looking for faith that inspires, I failed to find any form of affirmation of God in this script – and while there are admirable traits, I have to bluntly admit, I rarely “see” God in this genre.  

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Christianity – God sent His son to die for our sins thus a sacrifice was made and forgiveness offered for those who desired a personal relationship with Christ. Yet in the subgenre of Amish fiction, it’s increasingly troubling how little forgiveness there is in the culture. This cinematic interpretation does soften the blow. Katie’s shunning is appalling but fortunately, there is some rebuilding of her relationship with her family – first in the closing moments of The Shunning and later in the following movie. Watching this play out doesn’t come across as “helpful” or loving to the person being shunned – instead it’s one of the more judgmental forms of resentment. What makes it even worse is that the “sins” that have been depicted are something parents should care about – something that parents should listen to. Katie has a dilemma most of us can relate too. Perhaps not specifically in learning a secret that shatters us or losing our sweetheart, but in living through these, she struggled with her identity and learning who she wants to be. If there is one concession to be made regarding this culture, I would say I admired that Katie never wavered from her beliefs. How accurate any of this is of the Amish beliefs, I do not know. But I know that as a Christian, this troubles me.  

Seeing two different actresses in the role of Katie was interesting. Believe it or not, I think Danielle did a better job with the role whereas Katie Leclerc affected a much “sweeter” persona. Each of the supporting performers were well cast and played their roles well. Fortunately for the audience, this is a plus since the productions move at a snail’s pace – sometimes painfully so. Contradictive to that statement is that I cannot remember being bored in either film. The first is paced slower with sweet, innocent flashbacks to Katie’s days with her sweetheart and The Confession offers more content and perspective on Katie as a person – and what drives her, as we experience her life among the Englisher’s and their world. Fans of Amish fiction or Hallmark movies will enjoy this series. In closing, I will admit to this; even as a viewer who wasn’t able to respect all of the principles, both of these movies were sweet, and each of them had something special to say.
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Rissi
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  1. The Shunning series were one of the first Christian fiction books I read, and I felt like the series really messed with the plot (IMO :)), but then, what can you expect after the Love Comes Softly series? These weren't horrible, but they were hardly a good adaptation of the books. :)

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    1. I've not read the books, Alexandra so I wasn't comparing them to their fictional counterpart but thought that as standalone stories, they were entertaining and decent. Amish fiction is not really my thing so that may have been a factor in my opinion, too.

      Do you like this (book) series?

      Ah, yes! I adored the first 'Love' movie. After that, they kind of went downhill for me but that first movie... so wonderful. :)

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  2. The Amish faith is a cult that uses exclusion as a means of forcing members to remain inside the cult, at the cost of never seeing their family and friends again (much like Scientology). If I'm not mistaken, it's also a faith built on works more than salvation, which leaves me baffled as to why Christian Publishers are printing it.

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    1. I never got the fascination with Amish fiction, Charity. I mean I suppose as a "culture" (how they live; making all their own food or surviving without electricity), I can understand that there is interest but as far as their faith... yeah, that always puzzled me. My mom read some books by Beverly Lewis and she was troubled by the things they allowed of their youth and of course, the lack of real salvation.

      Guess it's not for me to question. But it is bothersome.

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    2. I think it's important to question everything! Apathy and acceptance is the enemy of wisdom. I do question Christian publisher's total embrace of the Amish lifestyle, while refusing to publish anything "Catholic." How is one so much more acceptable than the other? Is it because the Amish come out of a corruption of the Protestant Church? Or is it because Amish books make big bucks with Amish readers and it really is about the bottom line, after all?

      The only Amish book I want to read has a vampire in it. I saw the cover on Goodreads, laughed until I cried, and said, "Okay, I NEED to read this!" I suspect it'll be awful but at least that's a book that can poke fun at itself, right? ;)

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    3. True. There's a fine line between being thought as a person who "judges" and questioning things legitimately, and I suppose as I've been called on it before, perhaps I am a bit... leery...? I don't know. Additionally, I am being cautious because I know nothing about the Amish aside from fiction so I am not informed enough to give an opinion.

      Beats me why Christian publishers like so many Amish books. They certainly aren't my cup of tea. For more reasons than one - the most important being that they like to persuade their members what’s right and wrong in order to coerce repentance from them. That doesn’t set well with me.

      LOL, that does sound like a crazy book! You know I may have seen you add that on Goodreads because I remember thinking, “hmm… Charity wants to read an Amish fiction book!?” ;)

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    4. Eh, that's the aspect of a J personality -- we see things and form conclusions based off them. If we're called judgmental... so be it. ;)

      True, I don't know a lot about the Amish -- just enough to have an opinion on them. Bwhahahaha.

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    5. Making a judgment is something we all do - some of us just do so recklessly and the rest of us try not to needlessly do so. Or we keep our judgments to our self. No matter the varying degrees, we all have an inner "judger." :)

      ;-)

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  3. Replies
    1. They were really sweet, Maria. I'll be likely to watch them again. :)

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  4. I should check this out.

    I keep hoping (since I don't have cable and don't want to buy them) that RedBox will start carrying Hallmark movies more faithfully.

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    1. They were sweet movies, Juju. :)

      Aw, that's too bad RedBox doesn't pick up some of these. So many Hallmark movies are worth seeing just for the reminder that wholesome movies are out there - and they are refreshing! :)

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  5. I loved the books! The first move was okay, but they definitely strayed from the story line. I can't wait to see the second one.

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    1. That's what I've heard, Heather. As a girl who hasn't read the books, I enjoyed the movies as stories. Both were entertaining - hope you enjoy The Confession. :)

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  6. Interesting-looking. . .I really wish my family got the Hallmark Channel! Their movies are probably more cheesy than not most of the time, but sometimes one just needs to watch a cheesy movie. . .and these look like they'd be a fun watch :)

    I plan to read the Beverly Lewis books sometime, so I'll hopefully get to these as well.

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    1. Right on, Hannah. Many of the Hallmark movies are cheesy but oh-so-sweet. It's refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't make you cringe over the immoral behavior and Hallmark has that cornered. :)

      My family has to rely on the eventual DVD releases as we don't have any "cable." I wish they put their movies to DVD with more frequency because they are always fun - particularly the Christmas movies! :)

      Enjoy.

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  7. I admit I did not read your full review because I want to wait and see "The Confession."

    I enjoyed "The Shunning" movie. There aren't very many films films out there that are clean, and I think this one was.

    If...I get to watch "The Confession," and if I remember and am able, I'll come back and see your fulls thoughts on the movies.

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    1. Totally understand that Grace. :)

      Glad you liked the first movie and I wish you happy watching of the second - it was equally sweet. Perhaps even more so since it has more "content" to it - more interesting things going on.

      It is sad how few movies are wholesome - that's the primary reason I so enjoy Hallmark movies!

      Yes, absolutely, let me know what you think once you have opportunity to see The Confession.

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  8. I live right in the middle of Amish country, have a ton of Amish relations and work with Amish people every day. I have to say, books and movies about Amish make me laugh. They are so not-true-to-life.
    I DID watch the Shunning and I want to watch the Confession sometime. So what if they get their facts wrong?! =)

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    1. How interesting, Maria - always wondered how actual the fictional portrayal of the Amish was. Thanks for sharing. :)

      Glad you enjoyed the movie in spite of it. Enjoy The Confession - it was sweet! :)

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  9. I read and loved these books when I hadn't yet 'tired' of Amish fiction (I still think Beverly Lewis is one of the best in the genre). I am interested in the movies, but they're not very high on my list of priorities ;-)

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    1. Yeah, I understand that, Birdie. They're really sweet movies but can be a bit... cheesy sometimes. Most the time I don't really mind this because it's so refreshing to enjoy a movie that doesn't make me cringe over its profanity or rampant immorality hence the reason I am an avid Hallmark gal. ;)

      Glad you like Beverly Lewis' novels!

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    2. Yes, I do like a Hallmark movie now and then, but I think you should take them in small enough doses!

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    3. So far, I don't think that I've been influenced by their soapy sweetness (sometimes viewers think that life will imitate these kind of happy-ever-afters). That being said, since I do live life and like to be happy instead of sad, I tend more towards happy-go-lucky movies. That I will shamelessly admit. ;)

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