A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'm Not Ashamed is the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first teen to fall at the hands of the Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 high school students and one teacher at Columbine High School on April 20,1999. This film about the last year of Rachel's life, recreated through her own journal entries and from the stories of those who were close to her, details her transition from a mildly disobedient and troubled teen to ardent Christian, committed to helping others and "truly living a life for Jesus." Newsreel footage, along with the prospective audiences' awareness of the events in Littleton, Colorado, prepares viewers for the final violent and tragic moments of the movie (with gunfire and death). Disturbing scenes include the two boys' preparations for the massacre, sequences showing cruel school bullying, and private moments in which Rachel reveals a very fragile state of mind. Teen drinking and smoking was clearly a staple of the Columbine kids' social life at that time. And, while there is no overt sexual activity, there are references to sex, promiscuity, and some kissing and passionate embraces are shown. This film, with its real-life heroine and violent resolution, is best for mature teens only.
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What's the story?
When I'M NOT ASHAMED opens, tenth grader Rachel Joy Scott (Masey McLain) isn't a perfect kid. Still hurting from her parents' divorce years earlier, and crushing on a boy in her drama class, Rachel isn't above sneaking out at night to party with her long-time friends, and hoping that Alex Dickerson (Cameron McKendry) will finally notice her. But Rachel doesn't like her own behavior, and when she goes for her annual summer visit to an aunt's farm, the teen is open to a young cousin's entreaties to let Jesus into her life. It strikes a chord with Rachel... and then changes her life. Back at school, finding joy in drawing and writing in her journal, Rachel immediately begins attending meetings of a Christian teen group, where she connects with Nathan Ballard (an excellent Ben Davies), a homeless young man, who's barely surviving. Now able to practice what she "preaches," Rachel begins to translate her faith into good works, even as she struggles between the religious and secular high school world. Teased about being a "Jesus freak," Rachel remains stalwart, compassionate, and unashamed of her faith and, at the same time, much more maturely confronts the issues that challenged her before. Meanwhile, one very angry and disturbed student has recruited a partner in crime. The two plan to take their revenge on the bullies, elites, and the entire social order of Columbine High School by plotting a massacre of innocents. As the two stories merge, Rachel finds herself directly in the path of the raging killers. She becomes their victim, the first, along with 12 others who died, and the scores of injured that Harris and Kleban left behind before they killed themselves.
Is it any good?
Strong Christian messages and a winning performance by newcomer Masey McLain will make this earnest effort a moving experience for audiences who respond to faith-based movies. Significantly, Rachel Joy Scott's writings reveal that she was a girl who had a premonition that she may not reach adulthood, and felt that she had the capacity to make a difference in the world because of her faith. She was right; her brief life has had a long-lasting impact. Her extensive journal entries and drawings enabled her family to bring her story to others. "Rachel's Challenge," a nonprofit (but nonreligious) organization established after her death, continues to advance messages about violence and safer schools with important programs conducted throughout the U.S.
Unfortunately, the film goes astray with some less than stellar performances, its judgmental tone toward those who aren't religious, and in its depiction of Harris and Klebold. The two very disturbed teens are seen only as caricatures, and the filmmakers' attempts to connect the boys' over-the-top behavior to video games, teachings about Hitler, and evolution are thin. I'm Not Ashamed is one perspective of the terrible events at Columbine. Only for mature kids, and best for families who will appreciate a faith-based look at a true event.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about I'm Not Ashamed as a window into one terrible American historical event. Of what benefit is it to revisit this tragedy? How does telling Rachel Scott's story help illuminate the grief and catastrophe of all whose lives were shattered?
Rachel Scott coped with doubts about her life and her future by turning to Christianity and devotion to Jesus, steps that brought her solace and peace, and gave her a sense of purpose and self-worth. What other resources and/or organizations and interests are available to kids struggling as Rachel did? To whom or what would you most be comfortable turning to in order to help you feel better about your life?
While the events in this movie are based upon Rachel Scott's journals and interviews with her family and peers, why is it important to be aware that actual conversations and events have to be imagined by the film's creative team?
The event depicted here sparked America's awareness of both bullying and antisocial behavior in schools. This movie shows that Columbine High School's faculty, administration, and policy had little or no impact on such behavior. Do you think times have changed since 1999, and that there is more attention paid to bullying and to kids who may be deeply troubled? How does your school handle such issues?
- In theaters: October 21, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2017
- Cast: Masey McLain, Ben Davies
- Director: Brian Baugh
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: High School, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, teen drinking & smoking, disturbing violent content, and some suggestive situations
Themes & Topics
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