I think it easy when it comes to the arts not to recognize what a small town offers when you compare it to what larger cities produce.
Certainly we do have our success stories as evidenced by LCC Graduate Tom Flynn, whose perseverance in pursuing his passion as a screenwriter was rewarded following the release to theaters of the 2017 movie “Gifted,” which grossed $43 million worldwide and was critically acclaimed.
I thought about Flynn, Class of 1973, and his success last week when I carved out some time to watch a movie that was written and directed by another practitioner of the arts, this one, a former Shawnee Indian, Class of 1984, Nick Kellis.
Kellis’ movie, “A Walk with Grace,” is available for download from several sites such as Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play, either as a rental or a purchase for just a few dollars. My viewing was actually a gift from my pal, Jim O’Neill, the good doctor-turned-thespian (he plays Banker Man Jim in the movie), who sent me an Amazon gift card that I used to load the movie onto my iPad.
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I pressed the “watch” rectangle. Not to be what all movie lovers like me hate, a flick spoiler, Jim didn’t tell me much about the movie beyond his saying that it was a pretty uplifting story filmed right here in the Lima area with scenes shot in places I’d know well.
As for the “uplifting” part, well, who couldn’t use a little positivity in the midst of so much depressing nonsense that just never seems to stop spinning in our current quid pro quo news cycle?
And, as for the latter enticement for me to invest the length of the movie, a 100 minutes, well, that really whetted my cinematic appetite. My love of movies — first nurtured as a child watching those 1940s and early ‘50s black-and-whites with William Holden, Bogie and Bacall, Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth on TV — is always enhanced when I see specific places I’ve seen in my travels in films. When that happens, I just feel a bit more immersed in the narrative.
And, by the end of my pleasurable cinematic experience, with scenes that played out in places such as the Bath High School gymnasium, Vino Bellissimo and the Trinity United Methodist Church among other Lima sites, I certainly felt more connected to the story.
As for the plot, well, just as Banker Man Jim, I would never play spoiler. I’ll simply tell you it’s a story about coming home, about rediscovering what really matters in life and about the good that comes from doing the right thing when it positively impacts the lives of so many others. The story has a clearly defined conflict and an evenly paced plot, which evolves in linear fashion without flashbacks which often don’t transition well in some movies. Another strength, I felt, is unlike other movies where one gender or the other dominates the storyline, Kellis has delivered a story that features a good balance of strong and interesting male and female characters.
While the most recognizable actors in the cast are Stephen Baldwin, he of the well-known acting Baldwins, and Joe Estevez, Martin Sheen’s younger brother, both of whom are veterans of hundreds of films, several local thespians besides O’Neill have smaller speaking parts, among them Vince Koza, Jed Metzger, Jaimie Lewis and Lonnie Rettig. Additionally, wrestling fans will note Tom Ryan, the nationally known Ohio State Buckeye wrestling coach who spoke in Lima earlier this year and whom I interviewed for a column, who plays himself and does it quite well, which is a lot harder than some may think.
There are also some nice musical interludes in the film, ones that don’t intrude on the narrative, including performances by the local bands The Sunset Junkies and Stedic and the Groove.
While I’m not purporting to be Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert when it comes to reviewing movies, I have watched hundreds, if not thousands, in my life. My Lady Jane is quite the Lifetime Movie Network aficionado, and on lazy wintery weekends, I’ll watch with her, and Kellis’ movie could easily slot on that channel and hold its own with several I’ve seen.
And, so it has begun for a former Shawnee Indian, Nick Kellis, as he hopes to catch the same kind of cinematic lightning in his bottle that former T-Bird Tom Flynn caught in his. And, while A Walk with Grace may be just a start, as far as I’m concerned, it’s certainly a good start.
I think if you take your own walk with Grace, you just may discover that when it comes to the arts in Lima, the future is bright.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.