If you’ve been consuming any media via television or on the web this week, you no doubt have run into many news stories discussing the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. As I read and watch these various news pieces, my heart grieves over the horrific slaughter and butchering of the unborn that has taken place in our nation for over four decades. And while my heart is heavy, as it is each year at this time, I must say that I have found encouragement this past week from an unlikely source. That source of encouragement is a brand new film titled ‘Gimme Shelter’, which releases in theaters January 24, 2014.
The main character of the film is Agnes ‘Apple’ Bailey, who is masterfully portrayed by ‘High School Musical’ sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens. Apple is the illegitimate child of June Bailey (Rosario Dawson) and Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser). In the opening minutes of the film, Apple leaves home to get away from her addict mother to seek help from her father, who she has never actually met. Tom Fitzpatrick is the polar opposite of Apple’s mother. While she’s a junkie on her last leg, Tom is wealthy and successful. By worldly standards, he has the “perfect” family, car, home, etc.
Apple’s arrival is clearly an unwelcome disruption to the normal routine of Tom and his family, but we see glimpses of hope that Tom’s heart is at least somewhat open to helping his daughter. Soon after her arrival, Apple learns that she’s pregnant. Her father and stepmother’s immediate response is that she’s not ready for this kind of responsibility and the logical solution is to end the pregnancy through an abortion. Apple is clearly conflicted about the need to fix her “problem” and a few scenes later we see her storming out of the abortion clinic.
Shortly after this, Apple steals a car and gets into an accident. She wakes up in the hospital and that’s when she meets Father Frank McCarthy (James Earl Jones). Apple is mistrusting of Frank and anybody else who suggests they want to help her. Fortunately for Apple, Frank is persistent and eventually helps her get into a shelter for pregnant teens who intend to see their pregnancy all the way through.
Apple’s life begins to turn around for the better with the support and stability she finds at the shelter. And although her relationship with her mother becomes worse and worse, her relationship with her father slowly begins to improve. Apple eventually gives birth to a beautiful baby girl and towards the end of the film, her father and stepmother invite them to live in their home.
‘Gimme Shelter’ is not an easy film to watch, but it has a message that deserves to be heard. Human life is valuable both inside and outside of the womb. Like each of us, Apple and her unborn child are created in the image of God and have value. Both of them needed somebody to care, to acknowledge their worth, and as the film’s title suggests, give them shelter.
As a parent, I greatly appreciated that the film was not overly gratuitous. When a movie touches on difficult topics like drug addiction, abuse, abortion, and sex outside of marriage, there can sometimes be a temptation to leave very little to the imagination, but that simply wasn’t the case here. If you choose to watch this film with your children, I believe it presents an ideal opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the topics covered in the film. Keeping in mind that a little parental guidance will be needed, I’m comfortable encouraging parents to watch this film with their kids ages twelve and up.
On a personal level, I was very taken with the reconciliation we see take shape between Apple and Tom throughout the film. As the son of parents who never married, I grew up not really knowing my father until I was an adult. As you might imagine, this aspect of the film was awfully close to home for me. There’s a scene where Tom is holding his granddaughter and he says to Apple, “I never got to do this with you. I just didn’t understand.” That scene brings tears to my eyes each time I watch it. In this sort of a situation, I don’t think the distant parent really grasps what they are missing out on until they have other children that they are with day in and day out from the beginning. I know that was the case with my own father, who finally understood when my brother was born eighteen years after I was. I offer my heartfelt thanks to the actors and filmmakers for this beautiful scene in the film. You touched a deep part of my being that is generally locked up and off limits. Thank you for helping me to feel that joy of parental acknowledgement and acceptance that is an important part of my own story.
‘Gimme Shelter’ is both harsh and beautiful, showing us that mothers and their unborn children each have great worth and value. My hope is that this film will inspire moviegoers to seek out the Apples around them who need somebody to take the time to care and give them shelter. My overall rating is 4 out of 5 stars.
Learn more about the film at GimmeShelterTheMovie.com.
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