It took former Oklahoma Sen. Brooks Douglass a lot of fortitude and good old-fashioned grit to make the new movie "Heaven's Rain" and turn it into more than a crime story.
Douglass courageously brings to the big screen the true story of his family, before and after his parents, the Rev. Richard and Marilyn Douglass, were murdered one fateful night in 1979. Douglass, then 16, and his sister, Leslie, then 12, also were shot but survived to testify against the two men eventually convicted of killing their parents.
It's clear from the start of the movie that while the young siblings' physical wounds healed, their psychological wounds were not so easily mended.
Douglass co-wrote the screenplay and produced the film.
The movie begins with Douglass (Mike Vogel) on the floor of the Oklahoma Senate, attempting to get his victims' rights bill approved. The film goes on from there to the night of the scheduled execution of Steven Hatch, one of the men convicted of the Douglass murders. It does a good job of weaving in relevant flashbacks, and one gets a very real sense of the anger and heartbreak that has plagued Brooks Douglass. Leslie Douglass is portrayed by Taryn Manning, and Erin Chambers portrays persistent reporter Nicole. Kelly Curran portrays Marilyn Douglass.
Scenes filmed in Oklahoma — the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, the state Capitol, the Governor's Mansion (including an appearance by Gov. Brad Henry), among others — help bring the story to life.
Douglass portrays his father, Richard, who was senior pastor of Putnam City Baptist Church in Oklahoma City at the time of his death. Vogel portrays the teen and young adult Brooks, and actor Nicolas Braico portrays Brooks as a child. Perhaps the film's most touching scenes are those between Douglass, as his father, and Braico as the young Brooks.
It's in these poignant scenes that the heaviness of "Heaven's Rain" is lifted and it becomes the tribute to his parents that Douglass said he sought to make. The scenes between father and son are shown in colorful flashbacks to a time when the family happily served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Brazil. It is evident in these humorous and candid scenes that Richard Douglass lives on in his son's memories as a loving yet firm father and minister whose great loves were his wife and children, and his calling to preach the Gospel.
These scenes are in stark contrast to the scene that depicts the murders. Director Paul Brown does a superb job of providing the balance needed to make "Heaven's Rain" a compelling yet sensitive film.
The movie ends on a hopeful note.
It does depict the horrific crime that splintered the Douglass family.
But it also shows how Brooks Douglass and his sister tried to put their lives back together in the aftermath of the tragedy.
True to his faith-filled roots, Douglass, with Brown's aid, ensures that the film's ultimate message is one of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
— Carla Hinton
NR1:464 stars Starring: Mike Vogel, Erin Chambers, Taryn Manning, Marilyn McIntyre, Rebecca McCauley.