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Kerry Cronin, a philosophy professor at Boston College, noticed that her students weren’t really dating anymore. They might hook up, make out, or hang out, but many didn’t know how to go about actually dating. They were giving themselves physically without any level of trust that the other person really cared about them, and they didn’t know how to ask for what they wanted and needed. A number of years ago, she decided to assign them homework—they had to ask someone out on a date. A short, well-planned date that could only include the two of them.

Asking someone on a date may seem simple, but it takes an increasing amount of courage in our casual culture. It takes even more courage to ask, further down the line, where the relationship is headed. Any expectation of or request for a commitment can peg the person as needy or clingy. Cronin is doing countercultural work as she pushes students to take dating and the desire for intimacy seriously. She suggests a structure for the dating process with different levels of dates over time. Her instruction is very popular with students.

The Dating Project is a documentary based, in part, on her assignment. While Cronin teaches students about different levels of dates, the film also follows the romantic lives, or lack thereof, of three adults in different decades of their lives in cities across the United States.

While the movie is put out by Pure Flix, a Christian film studio, only one of the people interviewed talks about her dating life in relation to her faith. But all of them express loneliness and a desire for intimacy. As Cronin points out, we are not all called to marriage, but we are all called to relationship. The road to meaningful relationship can be a complex and lonely journey.

The Dating Project is an enlightening look at an important part of life that has changed radically in the last decades. A return to the “old days” is not the end goal, despite the call to what might be considered traditional dating. This film lends itself to a small group discussion, high school to adult. On disc now. (Pure Flix)

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