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The Columbine Massacre of April 20, 1999 completely redefined America's view of the lives of high school students. Drawn straight from Columbine victim Rachel Joy Scott's words and journal entries, through the insight of her mother, Beth Nimmo, it is the true story of a high school student whose compassionate, caring faith caused her to reach out to fellow students including her killers who made her a target of their murderous plan.Written by
an inspiring and tragic story, with appeal beyond the Christian community
On April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, two Columbine High School students, seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and 1 teacher at their school and injured 21 others in the deadliest U.S. school shooting to date. The first of the students killed was 17-year-old senior Rachel Scott, who was eating lunch with a fellow student just outside the school. The film "I'm Not Ashamed" (PG-13, 1:52) is Rachel's story. The script by Philipa Booyens, Robin Hanley, Kari Redmond and Bodie Thoene doesn't shy away from the buildup to the shooting, but this isn't primarily a story of tragedy. It's a story of faith.
In most ways, Rachel Joy Scott (Masey McLain) was a typical high school girl. She had supportive friends, but she was insecure. She was attracted to one of her classmates, but lacked the confidence to pursue her crush. She had struggles at home and sometimes did things that got her in trouble with her parents, but she wasn't really a "bad" kid. She had hopes and dreams, but couldn't see what life had in store. And she kept a journal, which forms the basis for the narrative of this film, plus first-hand accounts about Rachel's life and the circumstances surrounding her death only weeks before she would have graduated. (Note: Rachel isn't the Columbine victim who was the subject of the book "She Said Yes".) As the film opens, Rachel's divorced mother, Beth (Terri Minton), is having trouble supporting herself and her five kids. (Rachel is the middle child.) Beth eventually remarries, but she and her new husband, Larry (John Newberg), have problems steering Rachel toward making positive choices in her young life, as when Rachel sneaks out at night to attend parties with her friends (Victoria Staley, Taylor Kalupa and Emma Elle Roberts). Rachel is being raised in a household of strong Christian faith, but doesn't really embrace that faith until after spending the summer before her senior year with family in Louisiana.
Even when she makes her family's faith her own, she struggles to live according to the Bible. She seems more concerned about pursuing a romantic relationship with Alex (Cameron McKendry), the BMOC in her drama class, and she shies away from discussing her increasing faith with him. Eventually, her commitment to Christ strengthens to the point that it drives a wedge between her and her closest friends. Yet, she still continues seeking, learning, growing in her faith, and finding ways to live out that faith, such as when she determinedly befriends and helps a homeless teen named Nathan (Ben Davies).
As Rachel's story unfolds, two of her classmates, Eric Harris (David Errigo, Jr.) and Dylan Klebold (Cory Chapman) bond over their shared hatred for high school culture and the world in general. With Harris taking the lead, the two teens begin discussing acting out their frustrations through violence and plan what became the Columbine Massacre. As their story careens toward its tragic collision with Rachel's, the focus stays on Rachel's spiritual journey and director Brian Baugh handles Rachel's final moments tastefully and with compassion (although he does take some liberties with a few of the factual details).
This is an inspiring and tragic story, with appeal beyond the Christian community. The Columbine Massacre is an event of ongoing interest and relevance, so there's understandable interest in a film set against that backdrop. This movie stays just this side of exploitation, but does indulge in a few brief moments of melodrama. The story of Rachel and her classmates is engagingly and realistically told and generally well acted. However, regardless of your personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof), Rachel's struggles with issues of faith and personal conduct should be relatable to most Movie Fans, and Rachel makes for a very sympathetic character. With built-in drama and universal themes, "I'm Not Ashamed" rises above most faith-based films in both appeal and quality. "B+"
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