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Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming

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Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Sometimes we are given a second chance at something, and our subsequent actions illustrate our character, or lack thereof. Such is the premise of Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming.

Rowe McDonald (Javen Tanner) is a seminary student in Las Vegas, about to embark on his first missionary assignment. He’s got his sites set on his mother, Trish (Tayva Patch). Flying off to Utah, Rowe finds that she is late picking him up from the airport and his cab ride results in fatal accident. The cabbie is killed, but Rowe, seemingly in conversation with God is given a mysterious 60 days to complete his mission. Was it a coma-induced dream? Rowe wakes up in a hospital room three days later, his fiancé Ally (Joey Jalalian) by his side.

These two seem to be an odd couple, going through life at different speeds. Ally is a bit dizzy, a bit too eager, running at a faster pace than Rowe. She’s got their life and finances all planned out for them. Rowe, himself blessed with good looks, is well-meaning but judgmental. He has the smugness of a gentle know-it-all, morally superiority hidden behind a cherubic face with wide blue eyes. He prides himself on being efficient, only teaching those capable of understanding the lesson. Best friend Corbin (Raymond Zeiters) is a pierced and tattooed gem of a friend, but Rowe must judge his appearance as devil-like even though his good heart and charity work clearly dispute this.

Rowe is especially intent on baptizing his irresponsible mom, Trish, a 40- something barmaid who could pass for her son’s older sister. She’s harboring a secret about Rowe’s long-dead father. Rowe doesn’t drink, but camps out at the bar where she works, even getting harassed by the regulars. Trish is irritated at her son’s attempts to get her to straighten out her life. She won’t speak to him, even leaving work one hour before he knows she’s gone. His quest continues, night after night.

Rowe keeps a journal of his intentions –including his celestial dream conversation and 60-day second chance. He’s not about to give up on his mother, but he does begin to doubt his marriage plans to Ally. He’s discovering that Ally is a little too cheery and pushy for his contemplative nature. A misunderstanding brought about by a mild altercation at the bar separates the couple in no uncertain terms.

Rowe marks an X on each passing calendar day, scribbling over his wedding date and wondering what will happen at the end of the promised 60 days. He does not even know when that will be. Is it 60 days from the accident or sixty days from his recovery? What will happen when the time is up? What if he can’t reach his mother in the allotted time? Mysteries abound.

It’s not until Rowe comes to understand that love, not judgment is expected of him that he can move on. The rest of the film follows Rowe’s evolution from a truly holier-than-thou, quiet zealot, into a thoughtful, more accepting, peace-filled instrument of God. Something does happen at the end of the 60 days, but it is not at all expected or foreseen.

Javen Tanner’s Rowe is the perfect combination of good looks and stubborn pride needed to make you both root for him and shake your head in frustration. He’s able to bring his inner conflict to the surface and is easily forgiven for his hard-headed ways when his heart proves stronger.

Joey Jalalian gives Ally an urgency and a ditzy-girl playfulness that makes you want to like her despite various journeys into stubbornness and one-sided thinking. She can alternately portray an irritant one minute and Rowe’s redemption the next.

Raymond Zeiters as Rowe’s best friend Corbin is a surprising character full of heart and rock music. Looking like a tattooed neo-Nazi, Zeiters fills Corbin with charity, compassion and wisdom. He’s living proof of the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” You’d miss a pretty enriching read if you left this guy on the shelf.

Tayva Patch as Trish is Rowe’s well-meaning but militantly independent mother whose lifestyle he abhors. Her evolution throughout the film is realistic and she brings a naiveté to her character that belies years of hard living. The lies she tells to herself and to Rowe are a form of protection they both come to realize they no longer need.

Director Michael Amundsen does not ram the missionary angle down anyone’s throat, but opts to let the viewer discover, as Rowe does, the path to happiness and acceptance, comfort and peace. It is left up to us to decide whether Rowe had a dream or a divine revelation. The Mormon Church is an unobtrusive background for all of Rowe’s actions, but again, does not force its doctrine onto anyone. The viewer is a spectator, left to draw his own conclusion about what has been presented.

Mission accomplished.

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