Earlier in the week, we shared the good news that the film GIMME SHELTER, which releases today in theaters, has earned the endorsement of His Excellency Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life. The release of this film, this week (on the heels of the March for Life), is yet another sign that popular culture is prepared to take on hard-hitting themes from a faith-based perspective. But I contend that this is not a film we’ll simply go watch once and forget about. This is a movie that should be — for each of us in our own capacity — a call to action.
I had the great privilege of screening the film earlier this week. Blessedly, I did so in the privacy of a hotel room. So my sighs, smiles and sobs were not apparent to an entire movie audience. But in a way, I wish I’d seen the film for the first time with my young adult sons and my husband. Why? Because this is not simply a movie you go watch. When you’re finished with it, you are compelled to action and to conversation. I can’t wait to see it again with them. We’ll go to a mid-afternoon showing so we can follow it up with a long chat and a good cup of coffee.
GIMME SHELTER’s blueprint has been covered here and in other venues around the web:
Forced to flee her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson), and turned away by her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser), “Apple Bailey” (Vanessa Hudgens) finds herself on a desperate and isolated journey of survival. In the depths of despair, she meets a compassionate priest (James Earl Jones), who ultimately leads her to redemption and unprecedented support in a suburban shelter for homeless teenagers. With gained confidence, and the warmth of her new home, Apple breaks from her inhibiting past, embracing the future with clarity and hope.
I wasn’t familiar with Vanessa Hudgens, so I didn’t have to overcome any preconceived notions of this terrific young actress. My first encounter her with her, in the heartbreaking preliminary glances we get of Apple, made me want to wrap my arms around her and take her home. You want to crack through the tough, bruised (inside and out) exterior of this young soul who’s been left for so long to fend for herself. You want to not only point her to help, but really to take her hand and walk her there, wait with her, and then stick around and watch her transformation when she is finally — at long last — given the love, care and compassion she has so long lacked.
If you watch GIMME SHELTERand walk away feeling this way, please do what I did. Go immediately to the website LifeCall.org and search for shelters in your area. Then pick up the phone, call them, and ask how you might be a part of their mission. For while “Apple Bailey” and her story play out on the silver screen, in real life there are countless “Apples” waiting for us to espouse the Christian faith we profess and to live the pro-life message we champion. If we want young moms to choose life for their unborn children, we need to be prepared to help them do so. This means giving them access to shelter, clothing, food, training, jobs and most of all love. I found this film to be not only a gripping story with a strong witness to how lives can be changed, but perhaps even more so an invitation for each of us to become in a very small way our own versions of pro-life championKathy DiFiore, whose life inspired this film.
In short, don’t expect to just go watch this film, eat some popcorn, and go about your business. Go in — and you should, either Friday night or Saturday if it’s on a screen near you — and emerge changed, convicted, compelled.