Jane and Emma: The best-reviewed Latter-day Saint film in this decade

One of the best-reviewed Latter-day Saint films in this decade is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Anyone interested in Church history or looking for a faith-filled and inspirational new film will find the perfect movie night with Jane and Emma.


Jane and Emma takes a look into lesser-known characters in our Church history, exploring the relationship between Jane Manning James and Emma Smith. The narrative begins the night after Joseph Smith was martyred, and unfolds with a series of flashbacks that paint a picture of the bond between the two women.

This relationship carries the film through the evening. The bond they have, the tests they go through together, and the resolution they finally face give the film a palpable strength and power. Knowing these two women better shines a light on this part of Church history. Their faith and determination are inspirational examples as we face challenges in our own day.

Jane Manning James joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after learning about the gospel from missionaries in her home state of Connecticut. She shared what she learned with her loved ones, and ultimately led eight members of her family 800 miles on foot to find Joseph Smith and the Saints in Nauvoo. While her other family members settled in Nauvoo with jobs and new homes, Jane found a job and a home in the Smiths’ household, where she developed a strong friendship with Emma.

Lottie Peterson, reporter for Deseret News, wrote a review saying this about Jane’s character:

“Although much of the narrative, written by Melissa Leilani Larson, focuses on Emma’s grief in the aftermath of her husband’s death, the intimate setting—two close, unlikely friends keeping each other company during a sorrowful time—also allows viewers to learn more about a lesser-known character in church history. The film is rooted in limited historical record, but it does something remarkable with that limitation: It shows us why Jane's story is one worth telling.”

Jane’s incredible story is portrayed in the film by actress Danielle Deadwyler. Of her performance, Johnson says:

“Deadwyler portrays Jane with a powerful combination of steadfastness and vulnerability—she immediately travels to Nauvoo when she feels the Lord is prompting her, but we also see her crying out in prayer for an explanation.”

While Deadwyler excels as Jane, Emily Goss also makes a very powerful Emma. KSL News radio says of her performance:

“Other actresses have portrayed Emma Smith. Emily Goss is arguably the best so far. Between Emily’s acting and the script, the film strikes a tender balance in presenting a woman who is naturally gentle, who must be a community leader, who must share her husband with the church and who now must deal with the painful loss of her husband.”

These two actresses delivered a performance that will inspire those who see the film. Although set in a very different time, there is so much we can learn today about love, compassion, and faithfulness through trials from these women.

A five-star reviewer on DeseretBook.com said of the film:

“Such a powerful story told in a unique way. Every Church member needs to see this, know Jane’s and Emma’s stories, and experience the raw emotion portrayed in this film. I left it with a sense of gratitude for the incredible sacrifices and examples of these women who have faced-down prejudice, hate, and immensely-difficult life circumstances—and lived their lives the best they could in spite of it all. The film shines through the portrayal of relationship and small actions that affect change on an individual level. A wonderful soundtrack and fine production encircle the actors' powerful portrayals in this historical treasure.”

Another fan said:

“My wife and I absolutely love this movie. What a great story of love and sisterhood. We know so little about this chapter of our own history, and to be able to see it told in such a beautiful and inspiring way has really been a blessing in our lives. Jane Manning James is an inspiration to us as a pioneer that did whatever her Father in Heaven asked.”

Jane and Emma is available on DVD and Blu-ray at DeseretBook.com and Deseret Book stores.

Chelsea Oldroyd