Last week, I reviewed JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. While my Hallmark related content, especially from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, has been well-received, my review of the 2020 sequel became more popular than I expected. As of early October, that post has acquired 6 likes and over 200 views! Because of this, I decided to review Follow Your Heart! Hallmark hasn’t released a movie about an Amish community since 2017’s An Uncommon Grace. When Follow Your Heart was added to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Fall schedule, I found it to be a big deal, especially since a three-year creative void was being filled. On multiple occasions, I’ve said that I wished Hallmark would try new things when it came to their story-telling. From the looks of it, Follow Your Heart may be a step in that direction!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I am familiar with Galadriel Stineman, as an actress, through her work on The Middle. It seems like her acting experiences on that show have paid off! A strength in Galadriel’s portrayal of Kathy Yoder was her transitions between different emotions. After Kathy and her boyfriend, Jack, leave the spa, Kathy received a voice message on her phone about her father’s passing. Galadriel’s facial expression and emotions quickly change from happily care-free to sadly guilty about missing the call. Madison Lawlor did a really good job with her portrayal of Kathy’s sister, Miriam! The consistency in her performance is what made it stand out. In Follow Your Heart, Miriam was upset at her sister for leaving the Amish community. Whenever she interacted with Kathy, the tension between these two characters could be felt. Another character that interacts with Kathy often is Isaac Mast, who was portrayed by Kevin Joy! Throughout the film, Isaac had a more easy-going personality. It also helped that Kevin and Galadriel shared good on-screen chemistry. These factors, along with quality acting talents, assisted Kevin in partially carrying this film!
Good audio: In my JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift review, I talked about Hallmark’s recent issue with poor audio. This was, fortunately, not the case for Follow Your Heart! All of the dialogue could be understood and heard clearly. Various sounds and music played in the background, making their existence known without overpowering scenes. While watching this film, I never felt the need to adjust the volume on my television. This definitely added to my movie-viewing experience!
New takes on tried-and-true cliches: As I also mentioned in my review of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Hallmark loves adding cliches in their movies. What I liked about Follow Your Heart was how there were new takes on these cliches! The most overused one is the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown”. In Follow Your Heart, Kathy comes back to her Amish community. She’s not only returning to a smaller town, but she’s also returning to a culture. Speaking of culture, a cultural misunderstanding influenced the “it’s not what you think” cliché found in this movie. I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t seen the film yet. But I will say this new creative approach presented a dynamic that isn’t often seen in Hallmark’s projects.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Very few explanations about Amish culture: When an Amish community is presented in a film, the film’s creative team devotes some time to explaining certain aspects of Amish culture. With Follow Your Heart, however, it felt like the movie’s creative team expected their audience to be mostly or completely educated about the lives of the Amish. While Kathy does explain that the Amish from Mountain View, her hometown, don’t believe in artistic expression, this is the only explanation about Amish culture the film provides. During one conversation, Miriam brings up the subject of Rumspringa. This is when teenagers or young adults temporarily leave their Amish communities in order to experience the English world. The short journey is meant to help these young men and women choose the course of their future. Sadly, this explanation was not presented in Follow Your Heart.
Incredibly rude friends: In a movie where a female protagonist has to choose between two male characters, the male protagonist is purposefully designed to appear as a better option. But in Follow Your Heart, Kathy’s boyfriend, Jack, was incredibly rude, even by Hallmark’s standards. While Kathy is mourning over her father’s death, all Jack seems to care about is whether she’ll agree to co-host a reality travel show. Even his views on Amish culture are closed minded, as he calls Isaac a “Renaissance man”. Kathy’s manager, Evelyn, is no better than Jack. She puts more emphasis on Kathy’s career than her client’s wellbeing. Evelyn also calls Isaac “sexy” because she likes his aesthetic and Kathy’s Amish attire a “costume”. The rudeness from Kathy’s manager and boyfriend were very off-putting.
Characters’ perspectives changing too quickly: Follow Your Heart featured a few occasions where characters’ perspectives changed too quickly. Kathy’s sister, Miriam, serves as one example. For most of the movie, Miriam is bitter about Kathy’s return to Mountain View. When Miriam comes across an object from the past, she immediately sees her sister in a new light. To me, this transition of beliefs didn’t feel realistic. What would have worked instead was seeing Miriam change over time.
My overall impression:
No movie featuring any Amish community should be the “end all, be all” when it comes to education about Amish culture. While film can introduce people to certain ideas and beliefs, thorough research needs to be done in one’s spare time. With that said, Follow Your Heart could have included more explanations about Amish customs and beliefs. I don’t think it was a good idea for the film’s creative team to assume their audience knew almost everything about a typical Amish community. Despite this, the movie was solid! The most notable aspect of Follow Your Heart was how tried-and-true cliches were presented in new ways. This gave the overall story a breath of fresh air while allowing unique perspectives to be showcased. I wish Hallmark would use this approach when making their films and tv shows; thinking outside the box and taking creative risks. If they did, maybe we wouldn’t see the same reused narratives that expect a different result.
Overall score: 7.8 out of 10
Did you see Follow Your Heart? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Leave your comments in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!