By REY FLORES
Movies have always been an escape for me. When I think of movies, I think of popcorn, soda, some candy, and plunging myself for two hours into the fantasy lands created in those big-budget science fiction films that blow up famous landmarks or create monster waves that engulf entire cities like New York or Los Angeles.
Most recently, however, I have had the opportunity to preview a number of terrific movies that have nothing to do with fantasy, but deal with the harsh reality of abortion and the beauty of the sanctity of life. In the last year I’ve watched and reviewed Doonby, the 40 film, and now Gimme Shelter. (See ad on p. 8A.)
The thing that makes Gimme Shelter such a wonderful film for me is how it really focused not just on one baby and one woman in crisis, but how it realistically portrayed a number of different people inevitably intertwined around the fate of a new human being — whether that new human being was going to live or die.
It is quite a frightening fact that we as a society have given ourselves so much power to decide who lives and who dies.
Right from the get-go, the film introduces the lead character named Apple, a young woman in crisis who has experienced a short lifetime of rejection, having been bounced around a merry-go-round of bureaucratic social services, with a very unstable mother and a father whom she has never known.
I find that the name Apple was a curious choice to name the character, because it is a fruit, and without sunshine and rain, an apple could never grow. In Apple’s case, she has never had the “sunshine” of love or the needed “rain” of formation to help her grow.
The movie pretty much starts with Apple already pregnant and having the few adults around her pushing for her to abort her child. Somehow, because of the things like love, respect, and compassion that Apple has lacked in her life, she wants to give what she never had to her baby.
This sets the tone for the remainder of the movie that no matter what Apple needs to do, she is going to make sure that her baby is at least going to be given a shot at life. Perhaps Apple and so many young women facing pregnancies see their babies in their wombs as the one being that will love them unconditionally — which a baby naturally does to his or her nurturer, mainly being their own mothers.
Another thing this movie did well was emphasizing the importance of crisis pregnancy centers and how much they are a lifeline to so many young women and their babies.
In my work as director of outreach for American Life League, I have visited dozens of our ALL associate crisis pregnancy centers around the country and I assure you that the women and men who run these places are some of the best people I have ever met.
In the film, the crisis pregnancy center is run by a woman named Kathy DiFiore, whose life is the basis for the story. DiFiore has survived an abusive marriage, homelessness, and the persecution by New Jersey state bureaucrats who wanted to shut her shelter down.
Like DiFiore, every person whom I personally know who is either a staffer or a volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers and shelters like the one portrayed in the movie would give you money out of his own pocket and the proverbial shirt off his back.
I pray that the positive portrayal of these places in this film will not only encourage young pregnant women to seek them out when they need to, but that it will stop lawmakers from persecuting these important programs and also inspire all of us to contribute our money and time to make sure the real “Apples” and their babies do have this life-affirming option open to them.
If there was one thing that I would have added to the portrayal of these centers, it is that women should be encouraged to really bond with their babies through breastfeeding and “baby-wearing.” It’s one thing to “save” babies, but it’s a whole other thing to make sure mother and child have a very close bonding and a health-giving start.
Not enough of these centers encourage this or provide volunteers to teach women about these great opportunities for mother and child to thrive.
Lastly, I’ll add that Gimme Shelter is a great sign that perhaps Hollywood is finally starting to realize that not everybody wants movies about sex, homosexuality, death, and destruction. Also, this film was not afraid to mention God — that’s a huge plus.
The fact that A-list actors like Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame and the inimitable James Earl Jones star in this movie is a testimony to Hollywood’s awakening. A great nod also goes to the dynamic performances of Rosario Dawson and Brendan Fraser for having the courage to take these roles on in an industry that frowns upon any pro-life messages in films.
This film should be shown at schools, churches, and local youth organizations and have a post-film group discussion afterward with youth, parents, and teachers. The film does not contain nudity or profanity, which is another great relief, but it does contain some subject matter and scenes that would be appropriate only for those age 12 and up.
Written and directed by Ronald Krauss, Gimme Shelter opens in theaters across the country on January 24.
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(Rey Flores is director of outreach at American Life League and can be reached at email@example.com.)