Film Review: Yellow Day

A technologically savvy faith-based movie dealing with a young man’s quest for love—and, in the process, grasping of God’s plan—that should find an audience among Christians who are seeking wholesome entertainment that puts forth religious themes.
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According to its producers, Yellow Day represents a whole new approach to family-oriented, faith-driven films that combines biography and fiction, reality and fantasy, live action and high-tech animation—in this instance, to recount a young man’s quest for true romance that leads him to discover Faith, Hope and Love.

Much of the narrative is set in and around Mobile, Alabama, specifically St. Joseph’s Chapel at Spring Hill College and Camp Grace, a bucolic Christian retreat that serves special-needs youngsters with chronic and/or terminal illness or those escaping domestic abuse. Its motto: “Lives are changed and souls are strengthened.”

The title refers to an annual celebration at the facility that honors campers who have triumphed over adversity in one way or another and attained a new level of Christian understanding. The festive event is called “Yellow Day” in honor of a 15-year-old terminal cancer patient (not a fictional creation) at the camp who described her good days as “yellow.”

Along with a handful of professional actors, the film features many locals and campers and incorporates some of their experiences. It marks director Carl Lauten’s feature debut and it’s the first project of its kind for writer-producer G.P. Galle, Jr., who has forged production and distribution companies, dubbed appropriately enough Providence Film Partners and Idyllic Entertainment Group.

Here’s the story: Protagonist John (Drew Seeley), also referred to as “The Good Man,” meets the love of his life “cute” in a series of seeming coincidences. First, he almost runs over Monica (Lyndsey Shaw). Within short order she bumps into him in the street (destroying his cellphone in the process) and finally, as fate would have it, he encounters her yet again in church, where each has gone to pray. Thanks to a not-fully-conscious porter, they find themselves locked in the church and alone with each other overnight. She has left her cellphone in her car and his phone, as noted, no longer works.

Despite early friction, John and Monica are drawn to each other and discover they have a lot in common besides prayer, not least their artistic natures. While he writes religious verse, she’s a Juilliard-trained composer. They’ve both suffered loss and disappointment. She mentions in passing that her stepfather is violent and she was thrown out of her home at an early age, but she found great happiness, her talent (and herself) at Camp Grace.

By the time John wakes up the next morning, she is unaccountably gone and he’s devastated. He’s determined to track her down, but has no luck and cannot reconcile that fact with his belief that it’s God’s plan for them to be together. As a last resort, he visits Camp Grace with a good buddy in tow (Akeem Smith), though it’s never made clear who the pal is or why he’s there. In fact, he’s largely a prop.

The camp is mob-packed—it’s Yellow Day—but Monica is nowhere to be found. Still, John encounters “The Little Girl” (Ashley Boettcher), who becomes a kind of spiritual guide giving him a tour of the camp, where he witnesses others overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds even as they (in some instances) are facing their own mortality. Much of this section interweaves animated scenes that appear to dramatize the backstories of various characters, or perhaps reflect a truer vision of an individual or an event as seen through God’s lens.

Yellow Day is an ambitious film with many learned references—from Michelangelo’s David to John Keats—and the animation (by the Nashville-based Magnetic Dreams) interspersed throughout is sophisticated and unexpected in a live-action faith-based film.

The problem is that the animation adds nothing. It’s largely confusing. Equally off-putting is the portentous voiceover talking about The Light, The Dark, The King, The Queen. It’s not always obvious what or who is being referred to or its application to the scene that has passed or the one that is forthcoming.

The film is intended to be viewed as a kind of fairytale romance and it’s literally set within a storybook framework. At various points throughout, one sees pages turning and fanciful calligraphy filling the screen—all designed to evoke an ancient text. It’s visually striking, but again the device becomes yet another layer of obfuscation.

The major issue, of course, is the film’s story. It’s not gripping, especially to viewers who do not accept the film’s religious/philosophical premise: to wit, the notion that God has a plan and everything has purpose and meaning.

In all fairness, however, it’s highly unlikely that a non-believer would be in this audience. The movie is unequivocally targeted at religiously minded Christian moviegoers who buy into the inherent theology and welcome wholesome entertainment that celebrates it.

Click here for cast and crew information.