Echoes of Innocence is a virginity-themed, Christian independent film currently playing in about 200 theaters nationwide. And it couldn't stand in starker contrast to Junebug. Echoes quickly jettisons any sense of realism in plotting and character and dives into archetypes (a kind word for clichés) and sensationalism.
The film focuses on Sarah (Sara Simmonds), a gothic teen obsessed with Joan of Arc and a childhood sweetheart who mysteriously disappeared. Sarah becomes known as "The Virg" after an unfortunate middle-school presentation on Joan. But Sarah has reason to be obsessed: Her own life mirrors her heroine's. Sarah spends much of her free time in an abandoned chapel in the woods, where she hears voices and sees visions.
Sarah's an odd duck, and an outcast at school. Dave (Jake McDorman) is a reporter for the school paper who decides to crack her shell through a "human interest" profile. But Sarah has also attracted the interest of Alec (Matt Vodvarka), a black-trench-coat-wearing student with sinister intentions.
This abstinence tale is framed as a supernatural thriller, presumably because that's what would attract teenagers to an abstinence tale. Interesting perhaps in concept, but not in execution. Echoes does prompt a few observations, however:
- Catholicism remains the primary religious language of cinema. Sarah kneels before a statue of St. Joan, uses a rosary, visits a priest, begs for absolution-but, as the priest himself complains, she's not Catholic.
- On a more positive note, Echoes demonstrates the increasing quality in production values available to independent films. On what had to be a tiny budget, Echoes' lensing actually looks pretty good. Christian films are often derided as having the production values of an after-school special, but improvements in technology are offering independent filmmakers tools previously reserved for Hollywood professionals.
- As either a dramatic device or an agent of the supernatural, cows just don't work. If you see the movie, you'll understand.