On Saturday I went to see the new movie Gimme Shelter. I heard a positive radio review that highlighted the film’s life-affirming perspective. I knew the movie was based on a true story of a pregnant homeless teen who fought to save the life of her child. The main character in the film, Apple, played by High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens, leaves her drug-addicted mother on a journey to find her biological father, Tom Fitzpatrick, played by Brenden Fraser.
Apple’s attempts at reconciling with her father seemingly fail after he discovers she’s pregnant. She ends up in a troubling situation that leads to a meeting with a priest played by James Earl Jones. The priest ends up offering Apple hope by bringing her to a shelter for teen moms.
Although some critics accused the movie of being preachy, the actors are not openly very religious or pro-life. Hudgens took the role because she wanted to prove she could act in a serious part. She identified with Apple’s story of transformation and spent two weeks living in a Several Sources Shelter in New Jersey to better relate to her character.
I found the movie heartfelt, raw, and truly compelling. It was worth much more than the $8 I spent for a matinee ticket. I thought several things in this film were rare compared to most of what comes out of Hollywood these days.
Positive portrayal of a pro-life shelter
The home that Apple stayed in was based on the real-life Several Sources Shelter, founded by Kathy DiFiore. Years ago, Kathy opened her home to a woman and her baby. The need was so great that after a time, she left the corporate world and opened up four residential shelters in New Jersey. Filmaker and director Ron Krauss portrays the shelter as a loving home where the girls are a family. Kathy’s character is seen as merciful, protective, and devoted to her faith. It’s a welcome change of pace to see a major movie give a dignified and honest picture of pro-life work and a women’s shelter.
Sincere religious characters
It’s not easy to represent people of faith in a secular film, but Gimme Shelter does it well. The priest is tenderhearted and concerned for Apples safety. In one scene, Apple sits with him in a hospital chapel room and reads aloud Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.” According to an interview with National Review, James Earl Jones, who played Father Frank McCarthy, actually donated his film’s salary to the Several Sources Shelter. Jones studied to be a priest in his youth, which may explain his willingness to act in this role.
Realistic and relatable circumstances
The film touches on the issues of homelessness, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, abandonment, fatherlessness, poverty, and abortion. Although people in Hollywood sought to prevent it from coming and crucified it afterwards, the story will connect with people. A number of reviews called the film “unrealistic,” but director Krauss decided to make it after meeting a teen mom who walked over 25 miles in a snowstorm just to reach the shelter. When she made it and saw an available bed for her, she hugged Krauss. If that scene was in the film, it might have been attacked as being “unrealistic” as well, but it really happened. In the same sense, the things Apple deals with are really happening to young women throughout our country. Some, like Apple, will and do try everything they can to save themselves and the lives of their children.
In summary, Gimme Shelter is a must-see film. Pro-lifers should support this movie and invite others to see compassion displayed on the big screen. Vanessa Hudgens said making this movie deepened her own desire to become a mom.
“Being a mother is something that us women have been born into existence to do. I’ve always felt I’ve had maternal instincts as all females do. It’s something that’s ingrained inside of you ever since you’re young and playing with Barbies. [Motherhood] is such a miracle and so beautiful. I’ve always thought that.”
She goes on to tell the Mercury entertainment, “The scenes with my baby were the best times ever. That precious little face! There’s nothing more magical in the world than seeing a human being in the tiniest package possible.”
I agree with Vanessa and thank her, director Ron Krauss, and the cast for making this film. Bigger thanks to Kathy DiFore and her life-saving work that inspired it.