“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I’m not scared.”
Before you even see the girl’s face, you hear her voice, and you want her to succeed at whatever it is she is desperate for.
We soon learn it is hope, but the short-term goal she is revving herself up for is a cab ride to Saddle Ridge, New Jersey. It has its complications.
“How old are you now? 14? 15?”
It was her father (played by Brendan Frasier) asking.
Agnes (played by Vanessa Hudgens), who wants to be called “Apple,” had made it across the Hudson, having escaped her own hellhole — her mom’s (played by Rosario Dawson) place — after having escaped endless foster homes. “By the time I was twelve, I was in my tenth foster home.” Sexual abuse was her limit “in the system.”
This child with cuts on her face is pregnant with a child. “I only did it once,” she says.
In the Garden State was the mansion belonging to her biological father. “She smells and she’s weird, Mom,” his children said, as they eat dinner together. The impeccably dressed blond boy and girl were hugged and tickled, not reprimanded. Two days later, having pledged to hold her hand, their mother actually pointed Apple to the examination room, where a clinic staff worker would yell at her for not getting undressed fast enough as she was about to end the life inside her. She knew she had life inside her because she wouldn’t let go of the printout from the sonogram her father’s wife took her to the day before, as if to remind herself she had someone else to fight for, too, now. If she was going to “turn the page” like the man she came to for help counseled, it wasn’t going to be to create another victim.
“It’s time that you turn the page on this. Put it all behind you. So you can move forward.”
“You’ll forget about it,” he promised.
“Like you did with me,” she replied.
“They found the one in your shoe,” Father Frank McCarthy (played by James Earl Jones), says when she winds up in a hospital bed, fortunate to be alive. He’s talking about the photo of her baby.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is doubt …,” we hear him pray.
At the end of a week that saw hundreds of thousands once again descend upon Washington, D.C., braving snow and frigid temperatures, the new movie Gimme Shelter is a cultural breakthrough. It’s a compelling, inspiring, uplifting true story of a brave girl who would have been trapped in a desperately miserable life if not for her insistence on something more, God’s grace, and the generosity of people who want to make sure no one is scared and lonely if they can help it.
And as is evident from the actors in it, it is totally mainstream.
In Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Kathy DiFiore, who runs a shelter for teenage pregnant girls (the real-life Second Sources Shelters) remembers being “frightened, alone, and all along trying to hold onto my dignity as a woman.”
Gimme Shelter is a portrait in fighting for human life and dignity. It’s a story of love, courage, and hope. It witnesses to the complementary courage of motherhood and fatherhood. It’s a rough, raw story. And you will walk away with hope. And wanting to provide some — at the very least to a local maternity home.
This weekend, if you can, go see Gimme Shelter. Support good storytelling. And you will enjoy it.