Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making the Old New: A Family Film Favorite ~ Loving Leah

It’s my mom and dad’s favorite Sunday night movie. It’s such a tradition to the end of their Sunday, my sister has finally quit groaning when she hears Loving Leah is the film of choice.

But aside from just being a really good story, there is masterful characterization and a twist on a tried and true cliché.

I figured many of you would not have heard or seen this movie (it’s a Hallmark Hall of Fame film), but I couldn’t resist hitting a few of the high points that makes this film a favorite.

Breaking a Cliché:

There are many books and movies of convenient marriage. We have most likely become sick of the tried and true Love Comes Softly formula. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with those stories (they are some of my favorite kind), but HOW you write those stories is what will make you stand out.

Leah Lever is married and then widowed by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. And now her deceased husband’s brother must marry Leah or his brother’s name will die along with him.

You would EXPECT Jake to forgo his responsibility to his sister-in-law. But his brother was everything to him when he was young. His only option is to marry Leah (aside from the fact he has a serious girlfriend) and they will live like “roommates” until other arrangements can be made.

Already, the screenwriter has changed the normal story of a forced marriage around. By using a religious requirement/restriction we have a different take.

What can be learned? Look for the odd, for the new to make your story unique and different. You can have an old story idea. We all are writing a story that has been written before, it’s depending on how you write it. You’ll probably have to dig, like this writer did with an Orthodox and not so Orthodox Jewish family coming together in marriage, but your story will stick with your reader because it.

Make it complicated

What I love about this movie, is how complicated the emotions become in the story. I’m going to bullet point a few of them.

·         Jake has a steady girlfriend who is just waiting for THE question to be popped.

·         Umm…then he brings home a wife. Not so good for the girlfriend

·         Leah is an Orthodox Jew. Her new husband is not. And Mama does not like this.

·         With pressure from Leah’s mother, Leah and Jake must hold up the façade of their marriage. And that isn’t easy when she comes to visit.

·         Leah is falling in love. With her husband. But Jake is still stuck on the girlfriend.

·         So while we see Leah changing and adapting to Jake’s world, Jake is planning a trip to Jamaica with the girlfriend.

Life isn’t easy for either Jake or Leah at this point. But as the other grows closer together and can no longer deny their feelings, new complications arise.

They are now living as husband and wife, but when the news roles around that Leah’s first husband’s headstone is ready to be unveiled, Jake and Leah are faced with new complications. Which ultimately lead to the black moment and the point of seemingly no return.

The many subplots and layers that run through the story all add depth to the overall plot, which is Leah and Jake falling in love within the bounds of holy matrimony.

What can we learn? When we write our stories, we need to look for complications that will not only add depth to our story, but in some way add tension and drama to our overall plot. If you have a secondary layer in your story that never feeds into the main plot, I would strongly suggest cutting it out and finding something different.

What makes this movie such a favorite in my home is I believe this one fact: the triumph of love over any obstacle.

Which if you look closely, is the basis of a lot of plots today. But the triumph has to be equal to the struggles. We have to have a reason to want that love to fight through the battle to reach the other side. And we have to have struggles that will push our characters, that will leave the reader/viewer cheering or groaning and we have to have an ending that completely satisfies every obstacle.

We have to have the promise that none of those obstacles are going to arise again.

We promise a happy ending in fiction when we start writing or reading a book. That no matter what, these characters are going to come out the other side and be completely changed and new.

But you can’t have a satisfying ending unless your obstacles are challenging, resolved and promised that the characters have grown and changed enough that these challenges can never harm them again.

It’s a promise we have to keep and one we expect. Don’t disappoint your reader, especially in this regard!

Do you have a film that you love, that breaks an old cliché or has a challenging obstacle/ satisfying ending? 


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Casey, this is such a great post! I really like the way you showed how to put a twist into "the old cliches" with this movie. This is the second time this movie has been mentioned to me in as many weeks. Something tells me I need to rent or borrow it. Thanks also for giving me ideas on how to deepen my characters. Well done!

Casey said...

Good morning Jeanne! You visited early this morning. :)

Yes, this movie is a great family film and perfect for us writers. :) Twisting cliches are a great way to make our stories unique. It's so fun to break them. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Casey, I love taking old plot lines and making them new--that's one of the most enjoyable things about writing for me. I haven't ever seen this movie but it sounds like a good one ;)

Joy Tamsin David said...

I have never heard of this movie, but now I'm going to have to check Netflix for it. Sounds like I'd love it.

Great example of twisting cliches.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good points
Breking cliche's are difficult to do mostly because they are stuck in our heads. But to the writer who can venture to a new angle, they will be victorious.

Faith said...

Great post Casey! I have seen this movie and really enjoyed it, and I agree that it is well done! I can't really think of something right off the top of my head. Maybe it's because I like cliches way more than I should! But typically any clean movie where the guy gets the girl :p

oodlesofgrace said...

Just found your blog today . . . already a huge fan. Have been reading old archives when I should be doing paperwork for my "real" job. Thanks for such a fun diversion!

Krista Phillips said...

This is a new movie for me too! Great post, Casey!

Casey said...

Cindy, I love how sweet the romance is in this story. So captivating. And I agree with's a challenging (but fun) way to make our fiction stand out!

Hey Joy! I think you would REALLY love this movie. :)

Casey said...

Mary, very well said. You should have writtent this post. ;-)

Faye, lolol! Very true, which is why more and more new cliches are being invented all the time. :)

Casey said...

Susan, so glad to have you here! Glad we could be a nice diversion for you. :)

Krista, thanks! Soo glad you are now home with the fam. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Excellent breakdown, Casey. This sounds like my kind of movie. Now I've gotta track it down somewhere so I can watch it. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Loving Leah, so much so I purchased it. Like you, Casey, I'm a real fan of marriage of convenience stories, and this one had such a fresh new twist. Well, it's really taken from the Bible, but when put in today's world it made for a great story.

Casey said...

Sarah, I hope you can find it! And all this talk has got me wanting to see it again. :)

Keli, I was thinking of you actually while I wrote this, because I saw your a fan of The Magic of Ordinary Days. I see a theme going here? :)