WHAT TO SEE: Romeo and Juliet in Hawaii
Running for Grace
Ryan Potter, Jim Caviezel, Matt Dillon, Olivia Richie
Runtime: 110 min
Jim Caviezel has played his share of virtuous characters and even starred as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004). He plays a far less righteous figure as he teams with fellow veteran actor Matt Dillon as doctors serving in the Kona Coffee Belt of early 20th-century Hawaii in the 2018 film Running for Grace, now available through streaming services.
Although Caviezel and Dillon provide the star power, the film centers on the forbidden romance between Jo (portrayed as a teenager by Ryan Potter), and Grace Danielson (Olivia Richie), the pretty daughter of a coffee plantation owner. Jo is a “half-breed,” as he is derisively called in two languages, and is orphaned when the Spanish flu ravages the islands in 1919. Considered bad luck by the Japanese coffee pickers and likewise rejected by bigoted non-native haoles, young Jo wanders the village until the kindly Doc Lawrence (Dillon) takes him in. He becomes Doc’s translator and later his “medicine runner” to deliver remedies by foot through lush mountains to plantation workers.
As Jo grows into adulthood, he aspires to be a doctor himself, and his desire to meet Grace – whom he had previously only admired from afar – prompts him to handle a sick call to the Danielson mansion in Doc’s absence. The bigoted Mr. Danielson resents Doc for this alleged permission and responds by recruiting a “real doctor” to serve the haoles. Enter Dr. Reyes (Caviezel), a smooth-talking alcoholic with an automobile.
When Reyes asks Danielson for Grace’s hand in marriage, Danielson hatches a plan by which Reyes and his supposed assets might save the plantation from an unrevealed impending bankruptcy. To fight for Grace’s hand, Jo must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of race and class as the film builds to its climactic scene.
“Predictable but pleasant” is how one major film-review journal describes Running for Grace, and perhaps that is accurate enough. But this pleasant, squeaky-clean film with its gorgeous scenery, solid acting performances, positive values, and feel-good ending is a satisfying enough diversion for adults and adolescents.
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.