Steve Parston is a family man. Everything he’s ever done has been for his three daughters, so that they could live in the best house, drive the best cars, attend the best (and most expensive) business schools and someday, hopefully, have the weddings of their dreams.
So, when eldest daughter Abby comes home from a post-MBA mission trip to Africa and informs good-ol’ dad that she’s found the man of her dreams, he should be thrilled, right?
Steve loves Abby. But allowing her to marry a guy named Oz and then traipse off to Kenya, of all places, to start an orphanage was not this dad’s plan.
Abby was supposed to come home, join Steve’s marketing firm and then maybe somewhere down the line marry someone from a good local family.
But as Steve soon learns, raising strong daughters isn’t just about providing a good living for them. It’s about showing them how to do life so that someday they can go out and do it on their own—and on their own terms.
Steve isn’t the stereotypical “doofus dad” or the emotionally unavailable one, either. Rather, he gets so caught up trying to plan what he believes are the best life choices for his girls that he forgets to ask their input. So when his wife, Connie, and Oz’s parents advise him to connect with Abby and her sisters, he listens—even if those deeper connections don’t happen right away.
When Oz’s dad gives him the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (which he claims helped him raise his own daughters to adulthood and marriage), Steve procrastinates reading it. But after he does so (and after reading his Bible alongside the book) he is able to make amends with each of his girls. He humbly hears and accepts what they have to say about some of his weaknesses, and he adjusts his approach to parenting them accordingly.
We see strong demonstrations of marriage between Oz’s parents and between Steve and Connie. Even when Steve and Connie disagree, their conflict is healthy because they respect each other. And it seems that Abby and Oz will have a similarly strong marriage based on their treatment of each other.
We also see strong examples of parenting. Because even though it takes Steve some time to connect with his daughters, he continues to protect them, even when they don’t want his protection. And his actions are backed up by the other parents around him who reassure him that his heart is in the right place even when his methods aren’t the best.
When a little girl loses her balloon, a man goes out of his way to fetch it for her. Oz apologizes for breaking custom by asking Abby to marry him before asking for her dad’s blessing.
Ironically, Abby comes to understand where her dad is coming from when she winds up giving the same speech about adulthood to Zoey, her rebellious younger sister, that her dad gave her. And both girls eventually apologize to their parents.
Oz’s parents are Christian missionaries, and they’re ecstatic that Abby is a believer as well. They tell Steve that they prayed for their son’s future wife, and Steve says he prayed for Abby’s future husband as well (though he doesn’t indicate that person is Oz).
Abby and Oz plan to open a Christian orphanage in Africa after they are married, because they want to share the love of Jesus. When Steve questions this plan, Oz’s dad states that if God ordained it, then they have no reason to object.
People throughout the film express their belief in God and emphasize the importance of trusting Him in life, marriage and even career choices.
Several people volunteer to serve at a church, fixing it up and handing out food to the local community. People pray before meals. Someone wears a cross necklace.
Though it’s not stated outright, it’s obvious that Steve’s transformation as a father is influenced by his Christian beliefs.
Married and engaged couples kiss. When Abby sits in Oz’s lap and smooches him, her mom jokingly threatens to separate them. Because of the swiftness of their nuptials, Abby’s dad asks if she is pregnant. (She isn’t.) A young woman wears a few revealing outfits.
At a party, Zoey is led upstairs by her boyfriend, who clearly wants to have sex. She gets pulled out of the party—effectively rescued by him, actually—by her dad before that can happen. Zoey’s boyfriend then angrily yells that he’ll just find another girl to hook up with. Later on, Oz’s mom says she remembers a night she wished her dad had done for her what Steve did for Zoey, indicating that perhaps something similarly bad did happen to her.
Steve’s nose starts bleeding after Oz accidentally kicks a soccer ball to his face. A man falls off a ladder when he uses it improperly.
None, but a few people say “gosh.”
Adults drink at dinners and special occasions throughout the film. When a teen girl tries to sample an alcoholic beverage, her mother snatches the drink and downs it herself.
Zoey and her friends (all of whom are underage) drink at a party “chaperoned” by her boyfriend’s dad. And when Steve arrives to rescue Zoey, he tells the man to end the party or else he’ll call the cops.
Steve tries to take over Abby’s wedding (and life). He makes her big day about himself, inviting clients from work to Abby’s bridal shower and encouraging them to buy expensive gifts that the couple didn’t register for. He also makes a list of reasons why Abby shouldn’t get married or go to Africa, which is then accidentally read aloud by his youngest daughter. And though he tries to play it off as a joke, Abby is hurt and gets into an argument with her dad.
Throughout the film, Zoey is a bit of a rebellious wild child. She disrespects and yells at her parents when she doesn’t get her way. She lies to them to trick them into letting her skip school (and is later, rightfully, grounded). Her sister reveals that Zoey has a fake Instagram account where she has been exchanging inappropriate messages with an older boy. However, it should also be noted that Zoey is appropriately punished for her bad behavior.
A young girl incorrectly assumes her dad did something bad when he brings flowers home to his wife. (And after her parents fight in a later scene, the girl worries her parents will divorce, since she has friends whose parents fought and then divorced.) Steve tries to show Oz up by being a “better” volunteer and winds up making a fool of himself. Other teens mock Zoey and record her when Steve removes her from a party.
Parents tend to believe they know what’s best for their children. Sometimes, they’re absolutely correct—such as when Steve pulls Zoey out of a sketchy situation at a party. But other times, parents have to trust that they’ve done their job, that they’ve raised their kids right and that it’s time to let go—such as with Abby’s decision to get married and start a Christian orphanage in Kenya.
Steve learns this lesson the long way—I won’t say the hard way since things don’t go quite that far. But because of his unwillingness to accept that his daughter isn’t a little girl anymore (even though she’ll always be his little girl), he nearly misses her wedding.
However, Steve is encouraged by those around him. He’s told to guide and teach his girls while they are home, but then to let go and trust God with their futures when they’re ready to make their way in the world.
In turn, Steve’s daughters recognize his efforts to trust God and trust them. And they respond accordingly, making good decisions that reflect their own faith and upbringing.
That happy ending, combined with virtually zero negative content makes Pure Flix’s first foray into producing its own original feature film an outstanding success.
You can order Dr. Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters (which this film was based on) here.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.