Amy Kohn’s fascinating documentary offers a peek into the practice of Christian courtship, wherein a woman hands over the responsibility of finding a husband to her parents and the will of God. Such is the path for Kelly, who after growing up happily in a secular family is prompted to alter the course of her own life after her parents’ divorce. Enter Ron and Dawn Wright, a Christian couple who offer to serve as Kelly’s adopted spiritual-family through the courtship process. Now in her 30s, Kelly lives with the Wrights, relying on them to scout and vet all of her prospective partners, as she vows to save her next kiss for the altar. Approaching the subject matter with sensitivity and an open-mind, Kohn depicts a lifestyle lived by growing numbers of Americans, though familiar to relatively few. Yet the underlying joys and struggles in Kelly’s story of love, commitment, family, and faith resonate in surprisingly universal ways.
Summary info for schedule – will be hidden on film page
I’ve always been interested in religion, but religion can be a divisive issue. People from different belief systems rarely ever are in conversation. I wanted to make a film where they could be. When I came across the concept of Courtship in an article about Christian arranged marriage, I was intrigued. I didn’t even know something like this existed in the United States, but I also thought, “Who isn’t interested in romance and who doesn’t consider the challenges of finding a life partner?” I thought that relationships and romance could be an interesting lens to discuss religion through and could also bridge the conversation gap across people from different belief systems. Still, I didn’t know a lot about courtship so I began calling people and churches who practiced courtship and came across the website beforethekiss.com which shares and sells resources about the practice. Through the site’s owner, Ron Wright, I learned that Christian Courtship is an increasingly common practice in the conservative Christian community. As parents become increasingly disenchanted with secular dating and what they see as a promiscuous culture where divorce is all too common, they see courtship as a way to protect their children from heartbreak and to ensure that they will have solid marriages going forward. Ron explained to me that he and his wife had a “spiritual daughter” – Kelly – who they were helping to follow courtship. The story was so unique that I began discussing with them the possibility of making a documentary about Kelly’s journey. While most people practicing courtship are raised in it, Kelly, the film’s main character, was raised secularly and embraced the practice in adulthood following a series of heartbreaks in relationships and her parents’ divorce. Her own parents disagree with courtship and wish she would Internet date and join singles groups but Kelly doesn’t believe that these modern ways of meeting people are part of God’s plan. Her views contrast sharply with the majority of people today who largely seem to meet partners through such modern conveniences. Therefore, the inspiration for this film and the larger themes of it rest firmly in the world of secular dating. Everyone dreams of finding that one special person and we all struggle with how to find him or her. Some people meet partners at school, through Internet web sites, through family and friends – Kelly has chosen to leave it to the hands of God. Though her choice may at times seems extreme, her fears about vulnerability and her desire to be loved remain relatable. Ironically, throughout the course of filming, I myself was Internet dating. There were many times while dating that frustration led me to think that it would indeed be easier if someone would just screen potential dates for me. Still, during the film’s production I met and married my husband and recently had a baby. Contrasting Kelly’s search for a mate against my own was also an interesting part of the film creation process and forced me to ask interesting questions about faith, romance, love and giving up agency over your own decisions. This film examines the challenges of opening yourself up to love and whether heartbreak can ever be avoided.