"The Smith Family" is a "P.O.V." film about a Utah family that belongs to the LDS Church. It involves Mormonism, homosexuality and AIDS. But it's not really about any of that.
Instead, "The Smith Family" (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Ch. 7) is a remarkably powerful film about love, forgiveness and the power of family, even under unbelievably trying circumstances. And first-time director Tasha Oldham's understated approach to her subjects neither exploits nor sensationalizes, instead allowing the Smiths' story to unfold quietly a choice that makes the film's impact that much greater.
And it's a tough story. Sandy residents Steve and Kim Smith were both raised as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They seemingly had the ideal Mormon life married in the temple soon after Steve returned from a mission, parents of two great boys and, to all appearances, very much in love.
What Kim didn't know, however, was that Steve was fighting an attraction to men. On their ninth anniversary, Steve told Kim he had been involved in homosexual affairs.
Three years later, Kim learned she was HIV positive. Soon after, Steve developed full-blown AIDS.
What makes their story remarkable, however, is what followed: Kim overcame her own feelings of betrayal and anger to reaffirm her love for Steve and offer forgiveness. It's not something she did easily, but she managed what few people could, and in the process held her family together.
In the film, Kim herself worries about her motivations. "Did I do all of this because my motivation was out of love and compassion and those things," she says, "or was I just stupid?"
She concludes, however, that, "I had to learn how to follow what my heart told me." And hers is a remarkable heart.
Some viewers, no doubt, are going to see parts of "The Smith Family" as Mormon bashing, but I disagree.
Yes, Steve talks about his struggles to come to terms with being gay and Mormon, and he expresses some frustration even bitterness about how there's no place for him in the church. But he's expressing a personal opinion at that point. And he also talks at length about how much his church membership means to him.
And the younger Smith son, Parker, admits in no uncertain terms that he's angry at the church when it appears his father may be excommunicated. (As it plays out, Steve was not excommunicated.)
But, in the end, both boys remain loyal to their father and steadfast members of the church at the same time. Tony even goes on a mission during the course of the filming, creating an unbelievably emotional parting with Steve, who would die just three weeks later.
And, despite her many trials, Kim remains steadfast in her faith.
"I'm still a Mormon because it's who I am," she says. "It's who I am in my soul."
Kim Smith is at the center of both the Smith family and "The Smith Family," displaying courage and strength of character that is both amazing and inspirational. And that, in the end, is what the film is all about.
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