TV Review - If You Really Love Me

Keith Robinson (center) and Eva Marcille
in "If You Really Love Me"
Last year, BET broadcast a TV movie called What My Husband Doesn't Know. It was essentially a filmed, stage play. David E. Talbert was its author. Talbert and later Tyler Perry had long since realized a market for African-American stage plays. Filming those plays and selling them on DVD or to cable channels has now become another market. The cable channel GMC has become perhaps a key player in that market. They're not cinematic. The set design and the cinematography are nothing special. They're not like Joe Wright's Anna Karenina or Spike Lee's Passing Stage, or even Lars Von Trier's Dogville. Like Talbert's play-turned-movie a year or so ago, If You Really Love Me is focused on the story, the performances and the lesson to be learned. Unlike What My Husband Doesn't Know, this play written by Cas Sigers-Beedles is not built on salaciousness.

Eva Marcille (House of Payne and The Young and the Restless) stars as Fran, a New York City lawyer who loves her husband Phillip, played by Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls and This Christmas). Yet, she doesn't understand why he tells her that he's quitting his job as a defense attorney to enter the ministry. Fran wants Phillip to start his own firm. Phillip wants to be a preacher. Fran isn't an atheist, but she's clearly turned away from the church and gives Phillip an ultimatum not to do it or else.

Reagan Gomez-Preston (The Parent 'Hood and The Cleveland Show) co-stars as Christine, Fran's sister who is engaged to a handsome and successful doctor named Charles, played by Mel Jackson (Motives and The Marriage Chronicles). Christine is an over enthusiastic bride-to-be who is obsessively and loudly planning her wedding and honeymoon. She's so enthusiastic and myopic that she doesn't realize Charles is disenchanted.

Caryn Ward (Motives and The Game) also co-stars as Tonya, Fran and Christine's half sister who overlooks a good guy like David, a barber with his own shop who is Phillip's brother and a great singer, played by Anthony Evans (The Voice). Tonya instead goes after a taken man and has an affair with him. While this might suggest a salacious angle, like What My Husband Doesn't Know, which had Brian J. White parading proudly on stage shirtless, clearly appealing to the obviously large female audience who would enjoy a beautiful and well-sculpted man, this movie doesn't do that.

This TV movie is akin to Showtime's Soul Food, which also had three, African-American sisters at its core. Yes, the women are gorgeous and sensual. Some are even glamorous, but the objects of desire are always the men. Yet, Mel Jackson who has one of two scenes of seduction stays buttoned up, but he's still able to seduce. Anthony Evans who has the other scene of seduction stays buttoned up too. Evans does sing a fantastic song and he sings it fantastically, but always with his clothes on.

Mel Jackson by far gives the best performance, but the real meat of the drama is centered on what Eva Marcille's Fran and Keith Robinson's Phillip are doing. Fran questions Phillip why he wants to be a preacher and abandon his past life. Phillip says he's been called and because he was raised in the church, he sees it as a logical next step. He wants to help the disenfranchised in a different way.

Fran almost vehemently opposes Phillip. She superficially opposes it because there's no money to be made in preaching. Deep down, there's something about church and faith that bother her. Her parents have passed away and she has some health concerns, so she might in part blame God for a few misfortunes, but overall her life is good, so she might feel like she has no need for religion.

Phillip tries to get Fran to pray and she doesn't want to do so. By the end, it seems like the point is to get Fran to accept prayer but more so to accept Phillip's decision and his change. Sigers-Beedles uses a scare tactic to get her there, which is an easy shortcut that I wish the screenplay hadn't done.

I also wish that Sigers-Beedles had ditched the interludes with Lena, played by DeEtta West. Lena is the ghost of the sisters' mother. It's unnecessary to have Lena there. Lena's too preachy. It's meant to be funny, but it's not. There are good pieces of dialogue and good performances from Marcille and Jackson. A good song from Evans, which makes it a good watch.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.


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