'Until Forever' opens Friday in Mitchell
When Michael Linn got a call from a grieving mother that her son's story should be made into a movie, he was interested, but skeptical.
"You get calls like that a lot as a filmmaker," Linn said. "You take that with a grain of salt."
But Bonnie Boyum didn't give up, and eventually Linn agreed to make the movie, which he directed. That movie, "Until Forever," will open Friday at the Luxury 5 Cinemas in Mitchell. Showtimes are at 4:20, 7 and 9:15 p.m. Friday through Thursday, with additional matinee shows at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
"Until Forever" tells the true story of Minnesota couple Michael and Michelle Boyum—how they fall in love, and how that love is tested when Michael is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. The film's site describes it as "about the strength of love in the midst of fear, the endurance of hope in the midst of loss and the reality of faith in the midst of doubt."
'Love running out of time'
"Until Forever" was written, directed and produced by Linn Productions, a Rapid City-based production company owned by Carolyn Linn and her sons, Michael, Marc, Eric, and Nicholas.
Carolyn Linn said the company's first faith-based movie, "Into His Arms," came out in 1999.
Filmed in South Dakota and Minnesota, "Until Forever" offers regional viewers the rare opportunity to see the familiar landscape and landmarks of Yankton, Hot Springs, Rapid City and Minneapolis on the big screen.
In addition to regional locations, Michael Linn said the film inserted as many authentic touches as possible, from filming in the church where Michael and Michelle Boyum were married, to utilizing the actual get-well cards and drawings given to Michael Boyum by his students.
"Wherever we could, we used real things from Michael's life," Linn said. "It helps people get into that world."
Though "Until Forever" has a strong faith message, Linn shies away from labels because of the preconceived notions people often have of a particular genre.
"A lot of times when people think faith-based, they think cheesy. I obviously don't want to do one of those," he said.
In addition to its message of faith, "Until Forever" is also a compelling love story, he said, about two people in a relationship facing an obstacle, describing it as "a faith-based 'Fault in Our Stars.' "
"It's love running out of time," Linn said.
The movie also depicts other members of the Boyum family and the struggles they faced during that time period, including Michael Boyum's brother, Matt. Matt struggled with severe depression at the time and attempted suicide. Linn said that dynamic added a complexity to the story that intrigued him.
"While Michael was struggling to live, his brother was physically healthy, but he wanted to die," Michael Linn said. "It's interesting to have one brother with a disease that everyone can see, and the other with an invisible disease, that no one can see. It was very interesting to see how those two illnesses collided."
Jeff Logan, Logan Luxury Theatres Corp. president, had worked with Carolyn Linn in the past, and described Linn Productions' work as "head and shoulders" above what people typically associate with a local or regional production company. So, when he found out Linn had a new movie, he was on board right away.
"We knew people would want to see it and would like it," he said. "And it hasn't disappointed us. It is good quality, and the audiences have responded really well."
The movie is scheduled to run in Mitchell for one week, according to Logan. The theater also invited local pastors to a special advance screening on Feb. 9, and Logan said about a dozen pastors attended.
"They liked the message, they liked the film," he said. "They were all very supportive of it."
Weather permitting, representatives of Linn Productions will be in Mitchell on Friday for the film's opening day, with one of the film's biggest stars—the Pigmobile. The Pigmobile, a pink van adorned by oversized pig ears and a nose, is the vehicle Michael Boyum drives to take his girlfriend, Michelle, to prom.
She said the aptly named vehicle is usually a hit with audiences—and luckily for fans, it travels. Linn said the Pigmobile should be in Mitchell on Friday afternoon for people to see in person and take pictures with if they like.
"It's just almost a character in the movie," Linn said. "It's kind of a sad movie. We had to have some humor, and that Pigmobile provides a good bit of it."
A dream come true
Michael Linn had long been interested in working on a cancer story, but hadn't found the right one.
It took about 15 years from the first time Bonnie Boyum contacted Linn until the finished product, but Boyum never gave up. Now, Linn said the movie ended up being a dream come true—literally.
Before he knew of the Boyums, Linn had a strange dream of two young men on a bridge, at night, in the rain. One of the men was getting ready to jump, and the other was yelling at him—but there was no sound.
"I woke up from that dream going, 'well, that was unusual,' " Linn said.
Fast forward several years to Linn working with the Boyum family on the script of "Until Forever," and they told him the story of the night Matt stood on a bridge, threatening to jump, and Michael found him—at night, in the rain.
"Of course, that's when I got goosebumps," Linn said.
They originally planned to shoot at the actual bridge in Minnesota, but weren't able to. Linn then discovered the Meridian Bridge in Yankton, where that scene was ultimately shot for the film. He said the bridge matched his dream perfectly. A self-described skeptic, Linn said he's still not sure what to make of the dream.
"I don't know why, or what the answer is. I don't know why I couldn't hear anything. I keep waiting for the sound to go off in the theater or something when I watch it," he said with a laugh. "I guess I believe it on some level, even though I'm skeptic."
Carolyn Linn said "Until Forever" is not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America, primarily because of the expense of getting a film rated, but the movie has been reviewed by the Dove Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit that judges movies on "traditional Judeo-Christian values," according to the foundation's website. Content is evaluated on sexuality, language, violence, drug and alcohol use, nudity and "other." A review of "Until Forever" is available on at www.dove.org/review/11707-until-forever/#.
Linn noted that the Dove Foundation is more conservative than the MPAA—the foundation's review of "Until Forever" lists the number of uses of "butt" and "sucks" under the language category—and the foundation still gives the film its "Faith-Friendly" 12-plus Seal.
The movie, which opened with a limited theatrical release around Valentine's Day, has been shown primarily in the region, at theaters in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The film's website, www.untilforeverthemovie.com, also lists a screening at a theater in Texas. So far, Linn said the response has been positive.
"It did really well. We're really encouraged by the numbers. Obviously, we didn't do 'Deadpool' numbers, but I don't think anybody did," Linn said.