I can't get Gimme Shelter out of my thoughts.
Written and directed by Ronald Krauss and based off of a real pregnancy shelter run by Kathy DiFiore in New Jersey, Gimme Shelter tells the story of Agnes "Apple" Bailey, a sixteen year old girl who finds herself pregnant and very alone. With a drug addict for a mother, a history of abusive foster families and a father she had never met, she finds herself in very dire circumstances.
The research for the movie was very well done. Krauss wrote the original screenplay while spending a year in a home for pregnant teens. He knew the shelter had a story to share. Vanessa Hudgens lived in a shelter upon earning the role. I didn't think the girl from my favorite movie of 2006 could pull off a role as intense as Apple, but she does a good job. She shows great potential and range. This could be indicative of a new maturity and direction in her acting career. Rosario Dawson is masterful in her role as the manipulative and emaciated role as the mother. James Earl Jones was expertly cast as the caring priest who relentlessly yet politely points her in the right direction despite her resistance. Ann Dowd played the director of the house, Kathy, with grace and strength. Finally, Brendan Fraser did an excellent job making me forget that he was George of the Jungle and sincerely played the regretful father role so well.
Krauss' film flows well and there is a good mix of slow scenes and scenes where I was gripping my seat. I thought it was beautiful. The movie is a tearjerker, which isn't saying a lot for me, but I think most everyone will cry especially when they remember that the story is real. What struck me most from the movie is that Apple accepted her baby's life even though others pushed for a different outcome and even though she had never known anything but what most would perceive as a terrible life. Apple, a girl who so desperately needed shelter herself, clung to the task of courageously standing as a shelter for her own baby. I hope that I would be able to be that strong after a life full of difficult circumstances. How wonderful that places like Several Sources Shelters exist and people like Kathy live to offer not just a physical sanctuary, but also the shelter of family life.
To see a realistic depiction of a true story of a pregnancy shelter moved me more than I could ever be from angry, albeit well meaning protestors. It is not preachy in the slightest. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the world does not need more Christian art. What it needs is more Christians making good art. Gimme Shelter is good art, and it offers the world something it needs: a raw recognition of life at its beginning and a depiction of the need for dignity of all life.
After viewing the movie, I do feel ashamed that in the last two years, I have only volunteered once at the stellar local house for unwed mothers. It was such a fulfilling night, and yet the only contact I've had with them since was chatting with one of the mothers who was now able to be on her own thanks to the help from the house at Target. When we volunteered, one of the mothers kept to herself most of the time, but when she did ask me questions, I noticed that she couldn't speak very well. When we left, she handed me a few pieces of paper and told me it was part of the book she was writing. In those pages, I learned that one of her ex-boyfriends had broken her jaw multiple times. Multiple times. Yet this poor woman similarly recognized the importance of the life she was sheltering despite her difficult circumstances.
I'm happy that I was given this opportunity to see the movie. I hope this review will make me react with more than prayers, as important and powerful as they are.
Please go watch it! Support this movie. It is worth supporting. Then come back and tell me what you thought, please.
And I think it goes without saying, support unwed mothers.
For more on Gimme Shelter:
The official website
A blog post by Tony Rossi covering his interview with Ron Krauss and Kathy DiFiore
The podcast of the complete interview with Ron Krauss and Kathy DiFiore: Part I & Part II
Vanessa Hudgens talks preparing for the role
P.S. I did receive a link to view Gimme Shelter early, but I was not compensated in any way. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Okay now really ... go see it Friday, January 24, 2014!