"Emma Smith: My Story" looks and feels very much like a continuation of 2000's "The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd" and 2005's "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration," the film production about early LDS Church history that can still be seen at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
That's because this historical drama uses some of the same cast and crew and even makes use of a few cut scenes from those earlier productions, as well as the direct-to-video docu-drama "Praise to the Man."
And it turns out that's both the film's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. While there are those who will appreciate the sense of continuity, there are a couple unnecessary anecdotes here that really do feel like "outtakes."
Some of the story construction is a bit haphazard as well, though the movie is considerably better than most if not all of the recent LDS cinema. It's not completely enthralling but is pretty well-acted and was beautifully shot.
"My Story" plays out like anecdotes about the relationship between Emma Hale and Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Through flashbacks, the older, widowed Emma (Patricia Place) tells stories to the Smiths' discouraged, adoptive daughter, Julia Murdock Smith.
Emma tells her about how Joseph (Nathan Mitchell from "Aliens in America") courted her, over the objections of Emma's disapproving father. (Katherine Nelson plays the younger Emma in these sequences.)
"My Story" also looks at their early struggles, such as their separations due to his imprisonment, and Emma's later life. The film even briefly touches on the plural-marriage controversy and debate, though that material is only briefly addressed.
Again, there are some problems with the clunky story assembly. The exact relationships between a few characters are a bit confusing and need better explanation.
But it's clearly a labor of love for screenwriter/director Gary Cook, who worked extensively with the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society on the film.
And he does have a good cast. Nelson has a sly smile that is disarming, while as the older version of Smith, veteran television actress Place, brings some needed warmth.
Mitchell's depiction of Joseph Smith may not be as immediately charismatic as Jonathan Scarfe's portrayal of Smith in the "Work and the Glory" movies, but it's still solid work.
The real star of the film, though, could be co-director/cinematographer T.C. Christensen who frames the Utah County, Illinois and Canadian locales in breathtaking, picture-postcard style.
"Emma Smith: My Story" is rated PG for some brief, strong violence (mob riots, some gunplay, a beating and a brief, tar-and-feathering scene), as well as some adult thematic material. Running time: 98 minutes.