This is a very nice, easy-going movie. To some it might be a little slow, but I enjoyed the time I was given to enjoy each scene completely without being jerked from one place to the next as some frenzied directors like to do. I felt very good after watching this movie. It provoked a very good conversation between Carr and me as to what truth is and when or whether or not it's relative.
Jess Birdwell and his neighbor, Mr. Jordan, were of different religions that were quite opposite of each other, but both men were able to not let those views get in the way of their friendship. It's often too easy to judge someone based the values we're taught in our own church and look past the simple truth that we are all children of God trying to return back to his presence.
I think Eliza tried too hard to play her role as preacher and had a hard time balancing her authority in the church with that of the home. Jess portrayed a very loving and understanding husband and complemented (not complimented) his wife very well. Jess displayed the best way to use authority: sharp when necessary, but always showing love afterward (this is evidenced in the scene where Jess goes out to check on his son after a battle and confronts a confederate soldier).
The most contemplative question I came out with was, when is killing someone O.K.? Several characters reacted out of anger, others out of fear, others out of love. Josh realized how hard it is to kill another man. Jess went out prepared to fight if he needed to, but if he could avoid it, he did. Jess's mercy on the life of the Confederate soldier who had shot at him was very Christ-like and has inspired me to try to learn to be as merciful.
Friendly Persuasion was laid-back, easy-going entertainment with a good balance of humor and seriousness. It may have been a little slow, but it was totally clean and really made me re-think some things. So often we have in our minds definite rights and wrongs, yet it made me wonder what really exists as absolute truths. There were simple issues related to the family's particular religion (whether or not to allow an organ into the home) and more complex issues (if and when killing is ok). Each character made different decisions concerning fighting in the war and for different reasons. All instances appeared to work out in their own way with the only negative portrayal being the judgmental hypocrite.
The hypocritical character was firmly anti-war and vowed he wouldn't lift a finger even to protect his own family. The Lord said "Thou shall not kill" and he wouldn't do it. In the end, his farm was burned and his family attacked and he turned angry and vengeful. He went to war for revenge and got upset with others who wouldn't. He was judging others decisions based on his own circumstances and experiences. This was obviously frowned upon and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. Yet, I wondered if his character didn't represent most people, in particular myself. Why do we sometimes stand so firmly on one side of the line? If it's because our own trials and experiences have converted us there then we are honest in that stance. Yet when it's simply because we've never been tried in that area, how firm can we stand in our place when the trial does hit? More importantly, are we too quick to judge the actions of others based solely on our own experiences and understandings?
In stark contrast is the father. His interpretation of the war dilemma is portrayed to be the most correct. He is also honest about his beliefs and even defies his wife's strictness to fulfill his own harmless desires (like wanting an organ in the home). Luckily they are able to peacefully mediate their difference of opinion through love and compromise. I really like when the father says that a person has to do what his conscience is telling him, regardless of whether or not someone else thinks it's wrong. I believe that is the whole message of the movie. Our personal experiences shape our thinking and our beliefs and no one else can tell us what we should do or think because ultimately right and wrong is created in our own mind. Even God has decreed that there are times for war and for killing, He himself giving that command on various occasions. But there is also a time for peace and love. Circumstances and our own feelings determine what we choose, thus no one else can make the choice for us and no one else can accurately judge whether our choice was right or wrong.
Adding God to the equation can make things even more complicated. The mother is actually one of the preachers in their congregation and could be considered a zealot. The conflict that stands most prominently in my mind is when her son felt he needed to fight in the war. The boy's conscience would not let him stand by doing nothing while innocent people were dying. The mother advised him to pray about it, certain about the answer he would receive. She was totally taken by surprise when her son was packed up and off to war the next morning. "You said you'd pray about it" she challenged him, sure he couldn't have prayed or else he wouldn't be going. "I did" was his short reply. By the look on her face you could tell that she had quite the internal conflict. She loved and trusted her son, yet she also knew killing was wrong. How could he be so sure that he was doing the right thing and she was sure it was wrong? Right and wrong are not subjective...or are they? As portrayed in this movie, what is right is entirely dependent on the individual. In reference to Moroni 7, perhaps what leads one person to believe in Christ is not the same for another and thus right and wrong do depend heavily on personal interpretation.
Overall it's a great movie that incites a lot of serious thinking and personal evaluation.