It's truly incredible how much the massacre of twelve students and a faculty member at Columbine High School did to American culture as a whole. In addition to sparking debate on gun laws, safety in schools, and teenagers' use of the then-fairly new internet, it also forced parents, teachers, and students to look beyond their comfort zone and find kids in schools that could've been lost, lonely, depressed, or hate-filled, much like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were.
It's precisely this reason that Rachel Joy Scott, the first one shot and killed by Harris and Klebold on that fateful April day in 1999, and her story are actually ideal topics for a film. We probably would've all been more drawn to a higher-budget picture that focused on the mechanics and interworkings of the Columbine killers' plan, but Scott's decidedly human story and her devout Christian faith present us with a kind of honest, human-centered focus that never goes out of a style. Also a faith-based film and distributed by Pure Flix Entertainment, the most popular company peddling these theatrically released Christian films, I'm Not Ashamed does a great job at being uplifting without being too treacly and in-depth without being exploitative.
I'm Not Ashamed
Masey McLain, Ben Davies, Cameron McKendry
21 October 2016
Steve's Grade: B
Rachel Scott is played by Masey McLain, a real find of a young actress, who you can tell just by watching her throw herself into Scott's luminescent personality is grateful for the opportunity to tell her story. Despite her overall giddy image, Rachel doesn't have many friends at her high school, and the only thing she seems preoccupied with is getting mentored by her crush Alex (Cameron McKendry) for the role in a school play. Other than that, she's simply trying to fit in and share her walk with the Lord with her few friends and classmates in a way that gives them something to look forward to rather than something that can be shoved down their throats.
One of the people she moves on is Nathan (Ben Davies), the son of a heroin addict mother and an incarcerated father, who is living on the streets after his mother lost their apartment. He spends most of his days trying to find food for himself and his mother, such as shoplifting it or taking it from church gatherings, where he eventually meets Rachel. Rachel pesters him unconditionally, basically playing the role of his little sister and making sure he eats, has a place to stay, and knows a thing or two about Jesus.
The quartet of screenwriters here make sure that the supporting characters' stories get as much attention as Rachel's does, and as a result, the film becomes more complete. It's also the rare kind of faith-based film, the one that doesn't sugarcoat situations like Nathan's terrible living situation or some of the dour, less-than-desirable situations of Rachel's classmates.
Probably the only sin that I'm Not Ashamed commits is not developing Eric and Dylan at all, leaving them look and act as mentally deranged, murder-obsessed killers with no empathy or compassion. Their situation is never humanized to any degree and is only interjected in between Rachel's life to show as a juxtaposition of time. It's disappointing, even if expected.
But I'm Not Ashamed succeeds in telling a great, heartwarming story with a terrific lead performance at its center. It is occasionally robbed of conversational dialog, something that Gus Van Sant's Elephant managed to accomplish in a far more realistic way, working with a very similar story, but this isn't the kind of film that normally houses much of that anyway. It isn't until you arrive at the inevitable ending - which you're hastily waiting for all along - and realize that maybe after a few tears-shed or a sudden pain in your heart that you too were moved by Scott's story in a meaningful way. And just that says quite a lot.