“More tears have been shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers,” Christian mystic Teresa of Avila once said.
Finley’s not so sure about that.
Before walking into her audition for the prestigious Manhattan Conservatory of Music, Finley prayed—prayed hard. To make it into the Conservatory had been her dream for years. It’s what she’d worked for, planned for, practiced for and, yes, prayed for.
So when Finley finds out that she didn’t make the cut, of course the tears came.
“So much for prayers,” a red-eyed Finley tells her mom.
But life goes on, and Finley somehow has to move on, too. She decides to dive into a “semester abroad” program, just like her brother, Alex did. His time in Ireland changed his life—even though that life was tragically cut short just a few years later. Maybe it could help her, too.
Finley flies to Ireland and meets her host family—the very same family that hosted Alex years before. They own a fledgling bed-and-breakfast now, filled with plenty of rooms, guests and newfound responsibilities. But as Finley settles in, host mother Nora finds the time to give her a sketchbook that Alex left behind. “Now you can see all the things he loved here,” Nora says.
On the last filled-in page, Finley finds a beautiful rendering of a Celtic cross in a graveyard. And on the bottom of the page, she reads, “Finley.”
Why this cross? Why her name? Finley decides to search for the cross and find the answers to both those questions. But she’ll have to do it in her spare time, and she doesn’t have a lot of that.
Her study program requires her to spend significant hours with Cathleen Sweeney, a cranky old bat down at the local nursing home. Finley will also need to spend gobs of time playing the violin, too: She hasn’t completely given up her dream of the Manhattan Conservatory, and she’s working on a new audition piece.
And then, if that wasn’t enough, she’s got to deal with (ugh) Beckett Rush.
Finley met him on the flight to Ireland. He’s supposed to be some sort of movie star, but she was distinctly unimpressed. And when she discovers he’s a guest at the B&B, too—oozing smarmy charm from every overly photographed pore—she shrugs him off.
“I’m trying to stay focused,” she tells Beckett. “And I don’t think you’re going to help with that.”
Finley’s not looking for movie stars. She’s looking for purpose. Happiness. A second chance at the Conservatory. Something tells Finley that Beckett, one way or another, will lead to tears. And she’s had enough of those.
Beckett is attracted to Finley right away, and initially it’s because of two things: One, she’s pretty. Two, she’s disinterested. Those two ingredients are guaranteed to generate sparks—at least in the movies.
But those two elements would flicker out in 15 minutes if it wasn’t for Finley’s innate goodness and loving nature. And ironically, Beckett’s not the beneficiary at first. Rather, it’s crabby Miss Sweeney.
Finley and Cathleen don’t hit it off. But forced to be with one another, the two develop a real relationship. Finley learns more of Cathleen’s backstory and discovers that she’s not just a grumpy old biddy; she’s a quiet, heroic martyr of sorts. Finley tries to offer Cathleen a measure of peace, happiness and redemption as her life slowly winds down. It’s not easy: Finley works hard for Cathleen’s happiness, when she could’ve just walked away—just like most everyone else in Cathleen’s life had. Just like Cathleen begged her to do.
And just as Finley sees goodness in Cathleen, she also begins to see some of that same goodness in Beckett.
Cathleen sees it first. “He’s a good boy,” she tells Finley. “I can spot them a mile away.” Finley takes longer to convince—partly because the tabloids love covering his supposed man-child exploits. The truth is more complex, though. We learn that he’s deeply concerned for those who work with him. “A lot of people are depending on me, and I don’t want to let them down,” he tells Finley one day. He treats most everyone he meets with kindness. And while everyone else seems to be enamored with Becket Rush the Movie Star, sometimes Beckett hints that he’d trade fame for a little normalcy.
Along the way, the two discover not just hidden value in each other, but in themselves, too, and the people around them.
Finley seems to pray before her audition. And as the conversation with her mom illustrates, prayer is important to her (even though it seemingly failed to deliver Finley’s desired outcome). The graveyard cross is significant, too—and we see plenty of such stone crosses as Finley conducts her search. But those moments, and one Bible verse we read near the end of the film, really sum up the movie’s overt religious elements.
But those elements do emphasize the movie’s spiritual undercurrent: When God seems to leave a prayer unanswered, He may be answering it an altogether unexpected and, ultimately, far more satisfying way.
Finley refers to Cathleen as a “witch.” We see some “magic” performed in the fantasy-based movie that Beckett is starring in (filmed on location in Ireland, of course). Finley begins reading Stephenie Meyers’ vampire-filled Twilight series to Cathleen.
As Beckett and Finley begin their romance in earnest, their B&B host, Nora, gives Finley a strong admonition.
“I don’t want any late-night shenanigans,” she says. “Your mother would have my hide.”
And you know what? Both Finley and the movie honor Nora’s wishes. Finding You offers plenty of romance but no explicit sexual content. With Finley, Beckett’s a gentleman, and the couple contents themselves with several gently romantic kisses.
Beckett’s reputation, though, is something else entirely.
Tabloids splash pictures of a shirtless Beckett engaged in party-based debauchery and apparently detail his frequent one-night stands. This feeds a stormy media narrative concerning his on-again, off-again relationship with his on-screen co-star, Taylor Risdale. (The press calls the couple “R&R.”) Taylor, who’s often seen in outfits that reveal some skin, often treats Beckett as a boyfriend, cozying up to him on and off stage. At one point, she invites him to her bedroom: “If you wanna … talk,” she says suggestively.
We see Beckett on set shirtless. He and Taylor (in character) express their love for each other in both word and longing look. Beckett talks Finley into helping him with his lines, and the two also engage in romantic script-talk, leading to some presumably accelerated heartbeats.
When Beckett and Finley first meet, he tells her he’ll give her an autograph, but “no body parts. I stopped doing that a while ago.” Girls and women swoon over Beckett wherever he goes. To throw some fans off track, Finley and Beckett pretend to be a couple, with Beckett pretending Finley’s pregnant. We hear about a local dance where all the town’s couples allegedly fell in love.
[Spoiler Warning] Beckett’s alleged philandering is largely a product of a media campaign engineered by Beckett’s father.
Beckett and Taylor are the stars of a wildly popular fantasy film franchise. CGI fantasy dragons fly overhead in some scenes, spewing fire on occasion. Actors and extras fight and use weapons. In one post-battle scene, dozens of extras lie on the ground, hurting or dying, as Taylor tends to a picturesque wound on Beckett’s arm.
Someone suffers a burn while baking. Nora, Alex’s wife, chases journalists off her property with a hockey stick.
[Spoiler Warning] We learn that Alex, Finley’s brother, died while working at a refugee center. It’s rumored that Cathleen killed her physically abusive husband. When asked about it, she says, “If wishes were bullets.” She also says that her husband was clever about his abuse. “He left bruises where we couldn’t see.”
Nora utters an Irish variation of the s-word. We also hear a few other vulgarities, including “d–n,” “h—,” “p-ss” as well as the British profanity “bloody.” God’s name is misused once. We also hear some crude anatomical references thrown about.
Beckett appears to drink often and heavily in tabloid pictures. He and Finley go to an Irish pub, where there’s obviously a lot of drinking being done. There they talk with a homeless fiddle player who is rumored to drink too much (though we don’t see him particularly intoxicated ever).
Cathleen says that her husband was a heavy drinker, both before and after their marriage. And when he drank, “He got violent.” He eventually drank himself to death, we hear.
Beckett sometimes wears disguises to hide from his adoring fans. But it doesn’t always work: When a group of girls thinks they recognize Beckett, for instance, Finley pretends that they’re a different couple and lies to cover up his identity. Emma, daughter of the couple running the B&B, is fascinated by earthworms, and she discusses their droppings. Beckett and his father have a complex and difficult relationship.
You could say that the title Finding You is about Finley finding Beckett, or about Beckett finding Finley. This is a romance, after all, where two young lovebirds find each other in the romantic green of Ireland.
In the end, though, Finding You really isn’t about these two people finding each other: It’s about each of them helping the other to find themselves.
In the course of their relationship, Beckett introduces Finley to Seamus, a sometimes-drunken wanderer who also plays a mean fiddle. He’s full of Gaelic passion and sometimes eye-wetting sadness. Finley plays violin, and she plays it well. She hits all the right notes, her technique is accurate. But she knows nothing about the Irish fiddle. And when Seamus invites Finley to play on stage, she’s intimidated.
“Show them you love [playing],” Seamus tells her. If she does that, the audience will love her, too. “There’s a fiddler in there, and we need to let her out.”
That exchange hints at both Beckett’s and Finley’s characters. There’s something inside them that they can’t unlock. But it’s something they need to release from within to become, fully, who they are meant to be. Sometimes that means embracing something, or someone, unexpected. Sometimes that means giving up something the rest of the world would value.
This type of character development isn’t necessarily that unusual for a coming-of-age romance. But Finding You takes it a step farther: It’s not just about becoming the person you want to be. It’s about getting closer to the person that God wants you to be. While Finding You isn’t showily spiritual, there’s a sense of imperfect faith that undergirds the film. And even as it says we sometimes have to take risks to find that person inside, it emphasizes the importance of doing it responsibly, not selfishly—to take the needed leap, but to do so when it makes sense to do so.
Certainly, some critics will argue that Finding You is nothing special: It’s a fairly predictable romance, and it demonstrates workmanlike proficiency. It’s not perfect, either aesthetically or ethically. This is not a Christian film scrubbed of all content concerns. It hits a mucky Irish bog or two—not enough to stop us dead, but enough to slow us down.
But for me, the film is special, in a way. Finding You illustrates that sex and romance aren’t synonymous; that kindness matters; and that even in moments of disappointment, God may be operating behind the scenes. He will, as the movie tells us explicitly, “never leave you, nor forsake you.” We just have to be willing to hear His mysterious call and follow His example—living and loving and caring for others as we move through this world filled with shards and shadows.
Finding You? Some, I think, will find it delightful.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.