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Keeping the Promise (1997)

Harsh elements, disease and dilemmas mark a Massachusetts family's move to uncharted Maine and a better life in 1768.




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Credited cast:
William (Will) Hallowell
Anne Hallowell
Matthew (Matt) Hallowell
William Lightning ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Benedict Campbell ...
Hunter Ben Loomis
Boat Agent
Allegra Denton ...
Sarah Hallowell
Katy (as Ruby Jean Gillett)
Duke Redbird ...
Medicine Man
Ashley Saulnier ...
Older Child
Ben Saulnier ...
Young Man Walking


Immigrated carpenter William 'Will' Hallowell hopes to make his family wealthy, after a fire ruined them in Springfield, Massachusettes, by moving to a claim in Maine territory. In order not to loose it, his son and apprentice Matt (13), a greenhorn city boy, must stay there while Will fetches spoiled wife and daughters, but an epidemic wrecks that plan. Matt is robbed by white neighbor Ben Loomis, but saved by old Penobscott Indian Sakniss, who demands in exchange mat teaches his his grandson Attean to read. From suspicion bordering on blind hatred, loyal friendship springs, yet the winter is unforgiving. Written by KGF Vissers

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Plot Keywords:

indians | fire | boy | theft | ritual | See All (19) »




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Release Date:

5 January 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Oath  »

Filming Locations:


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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

A pioneer children's movie for all ages – adults included
25 April 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Keeping the Promise" is a wonderful story of historical fiction set in the early pioneer years of America. The script, cinematography and technical values of the film are very good. But the direction and acting set this movie well above the pack of similar children's stories. It's really a children's story fit for the whole family (i.e., adults included).

All the cast are quite good. Keith Carrodine as Will Hallowel, Gordon Tootoosis as Sakniss and William Lightning as Attean are very good. But three of the cast give exceptional performances. They are Annette O'Toole as Anne Hallowell, Brendan Fletcher as Matt, and Maury Chaykin as hunter Ben Loomis.

This movie is an adaptation of the 1983 children's novel, "The Sign of the Beaver," by Elizabeth Speare. That's the title on the DVD I bought. The book has won a number of awards. At least one review laments the film's deviation from the book. It must be considerable, because the film credits don't even mention the book. Adaptations usually are major revisions or changes in direction.

I haven't read the book, but think this movie stands very well by itself. It's a nice story of a family enduring hardships in the early days of America. It's a wonderful film about loss and love, despair and hope, honor and trust. It's about survival, learning, growing and friendship. And, it's about the early displacement of native Americans as our European forefathers settled America. This is a very good film for the whole family.

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