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By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/2/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is as powerful in its impact on the viewer as any film I have ever seen, no matter what the genre

I did not know what to expect. I have long been convinced of the importance of people with sincere faith making films which are not dismissed as religious or labeled Christian and marginalized.
Let's be honest, that is what happens all too often. In some instances these movies are fairly good, some even excellent. In others, they are not very good at all. As someone who loves movies, and is convinced that we are living in a new missionary age, I keep my eyes open for those films which communicate the message of true liberation. This message is desperately needed in an age which is losing its soul in the sterile abyss of nihilism. Gimme Shelter is one of those films. This gritty, realistic, well acted portrayal of the painfully real world which surrounds the plight of a mother who makes the moral choice of life, against extraordinary odds, is simply superb. 

Thank the God of love for the heroic work of angels such as Kathy DiFiore and so many others who provide shelters for the Apples of this world. A kiss is a sign of love. Love truly is just a kiss away and they light the path to love in a world of shadows. Thank God for Ronald Krauss, the writer and director of Gimme Shelter, who shows us how to make good films which can promote the truly good life. One does not see this movie called Gimme Shelter, one encounters this movie. You will not be the same after you have experienced it. See it - and be changed in this encounter.

Thank the God of love for the heroic work of angels such as Kathy DiFiore and so many others who provide shelters for the Apples of this world. A kiss is a sign of love. Love truly is just a kiss away and they light the path to love in a world of shadows. Thank God for Ronald Krauss, the writer and director of Gimme Shelter, who shows us how to make good films which can promote the truly good life. One does not see this movie called Gimme Shelter, one encounters this movie. You will not be the same after you have experienced it. See it - and be changed in this encounter.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/2/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Gimme Shelter, Movies, Movie review, Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones, Several Sources Shelter, Kathy DiFiore, Ronald Krauss, Christian movies, culture, pregancy help, crisis pregnancy, Pro-Life, Hollywood, Carmel Communications, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - My wife and I had the privilege of watching the film Gimme Shelter before it opened at the theater. I did not know what to expect. I have long been convinced of the importance of people with sincere faith making films which are not dismissed as religious or labeled Christian and marginalized.
 
Let's be honest, that is what happens all too often.

In some instances these movies are fairly good, some even excellent. In others, they are not very good at all. Some are, sadly, poorly done. However, whether they are well done or poorly done they can end up becoming the film version of "singing to the choir."

The only people who watch them are the people who may not need to hear or see their important message. They can also promote a mistaken approach of withdrawing from the culture, right when we are needed the most to serve in the renewal of the culture.

As someone who loves movies, and is convinced that we are living in a new missionary age, I keep my eyes open for those films which communicate the message of true liberation. This message is desperately needed in an age which is losing its soul in the sterile abyss of nihilism.

Gimme Shelter is one of those films. This gritty, realistic, well acted portrayal of the painfully real world which surrounds the plight of a mother who makes the moral choice of life, against extraordinary odds, is simply superb. 

It is as powerful in its impact on the viewer as any film I have ever seen, no matter what the genre.

The movie is disturbing in its realism and refreshing in its rejection of a pollyannaish portrayal of life. That is why I call it gritty. When I was contacted by the people at Carmel Communications about reviewing the film, I was instantly struck by the title.

I soon discovered that it was a reference to the work of mercy which is the life witness and  mission of Kathy DiFiore, the founder of Several Source Shelters . My first thought, which reveals my age, was to recall the gritty rock and roll song by the Rolling Stones, of the same title.  The words of that 1969 song flooded my mind: 

Yeah, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Lord, I'm gonna fade away
War, children, yeah, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, yeah, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
.

As I watched this gritty film I saw how apropos the title truly is.  This is the story of Agnes "Apple" Bailey, played with brilliance by Vanessa Hudgens. Only after experiencing the film did I learn that in preparing for this role she lived in crisis pregnancy shelters, spending time with the heroic mothers who overcame great odds to choose the life of their children.

Her research paid off. She delivered an extraordinary performance.

Apple is the daughter of a single mom named June, an abusive drug addict in the throes of the lifestyle which often accompanies addiction. She defines toxic, in her passive/aggressive behavior. She abandoned Apple when she was just a girl. Apple went through the system, experiencing twelve foster homes and at least one abusive foster parent.

She has lived her life in a war and was teetering on becoming a casualty of that war.

Apple came back to the only place she had to come to, to be used once again by a mother whose capacity to love was robbed by the dark bondage of narcotics. The role of June is a significant role throughout this stark, realistic film. It is played with a scary, gut wrenching honesty by Rosario Dawson in the performance of her career. 

Apple knows that the hungry darkness in which she is trapped will bring her down with it - unless she escapes. The opening scenes introduce us to her plight to do that. She stares into a mirror, chopping her hair off while trying to convince herself to break the cycle by repeating, "You can do this!"

She chooses the unknown of life on the dangerous streets to the prison of the toxic lifestyle in which she was entrenched, as her mother spiraled into a living hell and tried to drag her along. The depiction of her life on the street is as gritty as the experience of her mother's hellish household. This film is gritty - and rightly so - because life can be gritty.

Apple seeks out her birth father named Tom, whom she has never met. She has carried the only letter she ever received from him for years. It has become worn, along with her hope for a better life. Tom abandoned Apple and her mother after being informed that she was pregnant. He chose himself over the sacrifice of love, to go to college and pursue a career.

He is now a hedge fund broker who lives an affluent life with a picture-perfect family. He has a wife named Joanna and two postcard-looking children. They live in the suburbs. The re-connection is replete with difficulty. It will change Tom, and Joanna, profoundly, but not without struggle and pain.

Apple is depleted from life on the street and nauseous. After the initial shock of the unexpected reunion, she is brought to a doctor for a checkup as Tom takes a concern for her health.  It is there that Apple, while wresting with her complete lack of trust from a life of being used and discarded herself, discovers she is with child.This child, this new life, will become the vehicle of her own new life.  

The scene when she sees her child for the first time in a sonogram reveals without the necessity of words, the truth at issue concerning our first neighbors in the womb. The doctor gives Apple her baby's first photo, a photo which becomes a recurring inspiration and reality check as the movie unfolds.

The softly evil words used by Tom in his advice to Apple, encouraging her to abort her child, depict a reality often repeated as people seek to make an immoral decision sound moral. "It's time you turn the page on this, move forward, and before you know it; you will have forgotten that it ever happened." Apple responds, "Turn the page, like you did with me."   

Joanna, Tom's wife, takes Apple to a clinic to abort her child. She tells her she "does not have to worry about anything." She warns her she that she "doesn't want to end up being like her mother." Then, she abandons her in that house of horrors.

Alone, awaiting the abortion, Apple takes baby's first picture out of the place where she keeps it in her worn shoe. The truth of the humanity of her little girl compels her to act with courage. She runs out of the abortion facility to discover she has been abandoned once again. She runs back to the street where she faces what so many of the modern poor experience.

This gritty yet grand film exposes the fundamental moral issues of human life. For example, that our choices not only change the world around us but change us - and that freedom must be exercised in reference to doing what is true and good or it can devolve into a self-imposed slavery. Further, that our wrong exercise of freedom can lead to addictions and the compelled worship of idols that never satisfy the hunger in every human heart.

Yet, it does all of this without becoming moralistic. While not overtly religious, it deals with the very core of the existential questions which lead to true religious faith. 

It is on the street, and in a hospital, that Apple meets a Catholic priest named Father McCarthy, a retired military chaplain who is now a hospital chaplain. This is a man who walks the talk. Tough but loving, and played with elegance, compassion and dignity by the deeply talented James Earl Jones, his role in her life deepens as the plot deepens.

The character is a realistic and refreshingly uplifting portrayal of the many priests who do this kind of work, day in and day out.

Fr McCarthy is the one who introduces Apple to Kathy DiFiore, the founder of Several Source Shelters, played by Ann Dowd. However, the relationship is not an easy one. It initially meets with serious resistance as Apple falls back into her learned patterns of self protection. In addition, her relationships with the other women at the shelter are equally complex and beautiful, all at the same time.   

I could continue writing about this beautiful film but I have already gone on too long for one review. Apples experiences in the shelter and her transformation brought about by the love of a new family of young women at the shelter are difficult and deeply moving. They draw the viewer to reflection and a serious and cathartic review of their own life.

Her ongoing relationship with her natural father Tom and her natural mother, June, are realistic, troubling and deeply moving. Her initially isolated and harsh effort to survive becomes the path to her life redemption and the transformation of others along the way, but not all.

This is a truly marvelous story and a truly heart wrenching film.

Gimme Shelter opened in theaters on the weekend of January 24, 2014. As we approach the weekend I advise everyone reading this review to see this fabulous film. I end where I began, with the words of that Rolling Stones Song, but another verse, the one which comes at the end:

I tell love, sister, yeah, it's just a kiss away
I tell love, sister, yeah, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away, it's just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away
Gimme shelter


Thank the God of love for the heroic work of angels such as Kathy DiFiore and so many others who provide shelters for the Apples of this world. A kiss is a sign of love. Love truly is just a kiss away and they light the path to love in a world of shadows. Thank God for Ronald Krauss, the writer and director of Gimme Shelter, who shows us how to make good films which can promote the truly good life.

One does not see this movie called Gimme Shelter, one encounters this movie. You will not be the same after you have experienced it. See it - and be changed in this encounter.Then join those who are responding to the chorus. 

---


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