Ryan Little's new feature film, Forever Strong, gave a strong opening to the 7th annual LDS Film Festival last night (1/16/08), with a crowd of some 700 in the SCERA center's Xango Grand Theatre in Orem, Utah. Last year Little brought Hollywood-level production values to the festival with his Outlaw Trail, and Forever Strong shows a strong upward trajectory for one of Mormon cinema's finest young directors.
An inspirational sports film that one might compare to Remember the Titans, We are Marshall, or even Hoosiers, Forever Strong is based on the Highland High School rugby team in Salt Lake City presided over for decades by real-life coach Larry Gelwix. Gelwix, played ably by Gary Cole, is interested in building character as much as winning, and he is gradually able to win over and spiritually reform the troubled lead, player Rick Penning (played by Sean Faris). Sean Astin plays a minor role, but gives the film a sense of its own center with some leftover shine from his own inspirational sports film 15 years ago, Rudy.