Gimme Shelter is, in one word, fantastic! Not many movies make me cry, but this one did, and in the best way possible. Before I watched it, I wondered if it would be a “downer” movie about homelessness. While I love riveting stories, films that make me feel guilty or helpless don’t top my favorites list. If I feel for a character (and by extension, a cause), I want to know that I can get involved, and that when I do, it matters. Gimme Shelter was exceptionally inspirational and made me want to step up.
The story follows a fifteen year-old girl, Apple (brilliantly played by Vanessa Hudgens), who tries to escape her horrific circumstances at home. Leaving her drug addicted, physically abusive mother, Apple takes her chances on finding the father she never met. With his address in hand and every ounce of courage she can muster, Apple sets out to find a new future for herself. But the journey will not be without challenges.
I almost hate to discuss this film for fear of ruining it with spoilers. But I will say that Apple shows an immense amount of courage in the face of powerful fear and oppressive circumstances. When I stopped long enough to look at her life (the kind we know in the back of our minds that many teens face), it made me wonder why I haven’t already gotten involved. Most runaway teens are truly desperate, and the ones who have the courage to leave deserve our intervention. Gimme Shelter is also a powerful story of hope, one that allows us to see the best case scenario. While it acknowledges that not everyone can be rescued, it highlights the dramatic difference that intervention makes in the lives of those who will accept help.
The cast is exceptional, and the acting is spot on. In addition to starring Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical, though you would never know it was the same girl), the film also features Rosario Dawson (7 Pounds, Unstoppable) as Apple’s drug addicted and abusive mother. Brendan Fraser (Journey to the Center of the Earth) plays Apple’s father, Tom Fitzpatrick, a wealthy man who never got the chance to know his daughter. Stephanie Szostak (Iron Man 3, We Bought a Zoo) plays Fitzpatrick’s wife who tries to be supportive, but wants to protect the quiet life their family currently leads. James Earl Jones (pick any of his 184 Film and TV credits) plays the hospital chaplain who is the first to reach out to Apple and show her God’s love. And Ann Dowd (Marley & Me) rounds out the stellar cast as Kathy, the house mother of the shelter where Apple finds her safety. Truly, these actors bring writer/director Ron Krauss’s beautiful film to life.
Writer/Director Ron Krauss admits that he doesn’t do a lot of films, churning out feature after feature like other directors. His prefers to take the needed time to develop a character and a story that draws on true emotion. Krauss spent over a year at the shelter on which the story is based. He got to know the residents and wrote the story, crafting the life of the main character after the real lives of women he met. Thanks to his hard work, he captured the true nature of the plight of these women and the passion of Kathy DiFiore, the real-life woman who opened her house to the homeless over thirty-three years ago. DiFiore hopes that the film will inspire others to support or even open their own women’s shelters. She has even written a book on how to open a shelter for anyone who wants to take action, but doesn’t know how to get started.
Gimme Shelter opens in theaters January 24, and it will be worth absolutely every dollar to attend.
Talking Points with Kids
This film is not recommended for children under age 14.
For ages 15+:
What do you think of people who are homeless? Why do you think most of them choose to live on the streets? Do you think runaway teens have different reasons than adults?
In the film, Father Frank McCarthy told Apple not to apologize for expressing her true feelings. What difference does it make when a person validates your feelings? How can you adapt and use that kind of respectful validation to reach those who are hurting around you?
In what ways was Kathy, the house mother, the “hands and feet” of Christ? In what specific ways can you take similar action for a cause you are passionate about?