Too often teen movies emphasize the theme oft discovering one’s talents and pursuing one’s goals. Although good aspirations, real life involves so much more than solely the pursuit of our dreams. Life happens along the journey, especially relationships, which changes everything. We can still pursue our talents and dreams, but we do that within community, since we are relational beings that need other people to help us survive and thrive.
Brian Baugh’s film Finding You does just that. Based on the best-selling YA novel There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones, it is an inspirational romantic coming-of-age film that proves a good teen movie doesn’t need intensive violent action and explicit sexual encounters for it to be engaging and entertaining.
Finley Sinclair (Rose Reid) is passionate about a few things—her violin and getting into the prestigious New York music observatory. She prays to do well during the audition but her faith, as her talent, seems to remain uninspired. She’s an amazing violinist technically, but as the judges observe, she lacks heart in her music. The same comes across about her faith in God. When she doesn’t make it into the school, she becomes restless and decides, somewhat impulsively, to remove herself from pressures and expectations to study abroad in Ireland at the same school her brother attended years before. She longs for that peace that he discovered.
While on the plane, she ends up sitting next to a handsome heartthrob movie star, Beckett Rush (Jedidiah Goodacre), whose images of his party lifestyle are all over the plane’s free magazine. He tries to engage in conversation with her, but she is turned off by his seeming arrogance. His charm will prove to be irresistible.
Finley stays at the same host family her brother did when he was in Ireland, who run a local Bed & Breakfast. The host couple’s daughter, Emma (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) is a huge fan of Beckett Rush and effusively tells Finley that he’s coming to town to film his new movie. The family offers her the same room they gave her brother, where she finds his journal with writings and drawings. One drawing of a Celtic cross has her name engraved at the bottom. She feels her brother is trying to tell her something. Finding that cross becomes her extra-curricular pursuit with Beckett who, she discovers, is staying at the same Bed & Breakfast while shooting his next medieval action film. He offers to be her tour guide around town, which she consistently refuses, until he convinces her he is only a tour guide. His free spirit intrigues Finley who struggles with confidence after her brother passed away.
Beckett becomes the person to pull her out of her creative funk by introducing her to an elderly homeless alcoholic named Seamus (Patrick Bergin), who plays an inspired fiddle at the local pub. Though classically trained, Finley learns how to just feel the music following Seamus’ lead and allows her emotions to dictate her playing. She begins to discover herself and her sound.
Rose Reid and Patrick Bergin in "Finding You. © 2021 Anthony Courtney, courtesy of Roadside Attractions. All rights reserved.
Our creative talents do not rise out of a vacuum. They are for the benefit of all of society. Finley’s music touches deep in the soul when she connects with her own pain, suffering, and yearning for love while recognizing that her talent is a gift to share with others. Beckett struggles with the same creative blockage in his acting. Though Finley doesn’t want to get distracted by Beckett’s presence, he asks her for help with his lines, which she reluctantly agrees. Both of their creative talents flourish. Beckett shares his dreams with her about going to college but feels he can be just a pawn that his father (Tom Everett Scott) uses to direct his career, often through false publicity about his relationship with fellow actor Taylor (Katherine McNamara).
Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jedidiah Goodacre, and Rose Reid in "Finding You. © 2021 Anthony Courtney, courtesy of Roadside Attractions. All rights reserved.
An alternate plot finds Finley connected with an elderly woman at a nursing home as part of her class assignment to learn about Ireland from the locals. Finley is assigned to Mrs. Cathleen Sweeney (Vanessa Redgrave), a grumpy woman who most people avoid. As Finely breaks through the emotional barriers with Cathleen she discovers secrets that have never been revealed and helps to heal broken relationships, which also becomes her path to healing. Beckett helps her discover the real story behind the quarreling sisters.
Through a series of misunderstandings, the plot continues with surprising twists. When Finley goes to Seamus distraught about relationships, he tells her, “Life rarely works out as we plan it. You’ve got to learn to play the sorrow as well as the joy. They are linked…. You can’t have one without the other.” This invaluable lesson proves to be what she needed to connect deeply to her music. When she finally does find the cross her brother sketched in his journal, it was as if her brother was giving her a message about life. The cross marks the spot in a cemetery where the deceased person’s name is Finley, and the headstone includes a quote from Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged.” It becomes the assurance she needs to keep living with joy and hope.
Rose Reid in "Finding You. © 2021 Anthony Courtney, courtesy of Roadside Attractions. All rights reserved.
Life presents many challenges and the gifts we’ve been given can instead sometimes seem to be burdens. When life is shared with others in communion, and given to others in selfless love and forgiveness, our creativity becomes more in tune with the Creator’s intentional gift. We live to give. When we share with others our life, love, and hope, we receive healing ourselves, and offer it to all those around us.
This sweet story provides an emotional connection that touches on the character’s selfless sacrifice and purposeful pursuits. It gives context for the ideal of pursuing one’s dreams within the greater understanding of community. The film shows the simplicity and beauty of romance amid the struggle of expectations but that ultimately hinge on the enduring power of friendship and love. A truly inspiring film for teens and young adults.