Hutchinson was hit with a cloudburst of almost biblical proportions Thursday night. Streets flooded, curbs overflowed and water was everywhere.
It was almost heavenly how the rain stopped at 6:15 p.m., just in time for the meet-and-greet event for the new faith-based film “This Day Forward” at Century 9 in Hutchinson.
The wet conditions didn’t dampen the spirits of the 133 people who turned out to meet film director Brian Ide and Jen Jensen, the wife and mother of the story, at a special screening of the film.
“An amazing evening in Hutchinson, Minnesota,” Jen wrote on Facebook after the screening. “The theater was hoping for 40 and it ended up being packed. Conversations were beautiful and went on for an hour and a half after the credits ended.”
The movie is based on the true story of the Jensen family of Waverly, Iowa. Dad and husband Mike worked as director of worship at a 1,000-member ELCA church and as a vocal professor at Wartburg College. His wife, Jen, is a chiropractor in Cedar Falls. The couple had three daughters.
Things changed in a heartbeat when Mike was diagnosed at age 38 with brain cancer. After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the couple received the good news of clear reports in 2014. In early 2015, the news turned dire when the family learned Mike was diagnosed with a new, inoperable tumor.
The plot of the movie turns on what it is like living with someone with brain cancer. It’s not a cancer movie but a story about living with this death sentence. We see Mike’s struggles and his wife’s frustrations and fears.
In an early scene in the movie, Jen is talking with her pastor. She admitted to being angry with God. Her pastor answered, “God can handle your anger.”
We share in the joy of their wedding and the birth of their child. We feel the immense unfairness of his diagnosis of brain cancer. We yearn for a happy ending when we know there won’t be one.
The film packs an emotional punch. Mike said a couple of lines that stuck with me: “All you can do is choose. It’s hard but you have to choose faith. Give it up to God.” Another line he said was, “Help me choose faith when fear seems bigger.”
The movie has moved audience members based on postings such as these on social media:
“Excellent, compelling story. Thank you for sharing this story.”
“Just a beautiful story of faith and love in the midst of the most difficult of times.”
“Such a heartfelt movie that really allows the cast to give performances than can connect with all of us. The story beautifully reflects how anyone’s heart, mind and soul faces challenges. Do see this film the moment you get a chance. It’s special beyond words.”
Mike was able to stay living at home until this past July when he moved to a care facility.
TALKING WITH THE AUDIENCE
Following the film, Brian and Jen took questions from the audience.
An attendee asked, “How is communicating with Mike?”
“His verbal skills are challenged,” Jen said. “He gets frustrated like many stroke patients do.”
Other questions included what was it like to see your life on the movie screen? “Terrifying,” Jen said.
Brian shared that he was terrified to tell the story. He felt immense responsibility to the family and community because of the trust and faith they placed in him.
From Sept. 15 to Nov. 15, Brian is on a “60 in 60” days National Awareness campaign showing “This Day Forward” in churches and theaters across the country. Jen will attend as many as possible.
The film was produced by his church, All Saints Beverly Hills Episcopal Church in California. The faith outreach project doesn’t have the drawing power of big-name stars that distributors are looking for, so to market the movie, they used a viral campaign via social media to get the word out.
While many wouldn’t want to live out of a suitcase for two months, Brian is enjoying the experience.
“In L.A., it’s all about the right stars,” he said. “It’s business. It’s been a long journey to get here. I love it.”