“I want to be a light but it’s just so dark.” -- Rachel Joy Scott
I’m Not Ashamed is the biopic of Rachel Joy Scott, best known as the first victim of the two gunman in the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. But Scott’s story up until that moment is much more complex, and powerful, than simply being the first victim of two angry young men. Instead, Pure Flix’s feature-length drama shows the way that Scott’s journey to faith was winding, but in the end, she believed that she was right where she was meant to be.
Scott’s father walks away from his family when Rachel is eight, and through her teen years, she has an understanding of who God is but her lifestyle trends toward negative teenage behavior. The teeanger Scott (Masey McLain) longs to be loved by a boyfriend until it changes how she sees herself, and finds herself partying with her friends against her mother’s best intentions. While negative teenage behavior might be accepted as the status quo, in Scott’s life, the problems are apparent.
“God doesn’t waste anything, even the bad things.”-- Aunt Bea
When Scott’s mother sends her to live with her aunt for the summer, her aunt, Aunt Bea (Korie Robertson), and cousin (Sadie Robertson), make serious inroads by refusing to let Scott wallow in the darkness. Yes, they take her to church, but their daily loving on her are what make a difference. She returns to Columbine… and faces the same set of challenges with her renewed faith.
Among the trials awaiting Scott upon her return are the adjustment to her mother’s new husband, her biological father’s emotional infidelity, and the ongoing bullying at the high school. There, Eric Harris (David Errigo Jr.) and Dylan Klebold (Corey Chapman) grow in anger and violent purpose as a result of their mistreatment by others, and their fascination with the ideology of evil men before them. While those are the backdrop for Scott’s struggle, hers is more internal, more spiritual and emotional.
“God, help me follow the path that is right, the path that leads to you.”--Rachel
After watching a woman befriend a homeless person, Scott befriends her own homeless man, Nathan Ballard (Ben Davies), who begins to serve as a de facto older brother. He is trying to take care of his ailing mother; she needs someone to talk to who is outside the cliques that fill her life with meaningless infighting and growing tension. While the worries of the teenage world feel all-consuming, Ballard’s real-world struggles begin to break through their self-absorbed bubbles to prove something about the world. And yet, teenagers still struggle with the ups and downs of relationships, moods, and changing experiences - even Scott’s. That’s one of the beauties of the film: it shows that a Christian’s walk is often winding, but that just because someone has faith, it doesn’t mean their decisions are always best.
While we know where this is going, the journey is even more engaging. Whether it’s the witty banter between Scott and Ballard, or watching Scott rock out in private when she thinks no one is looking, the exuberance of McLain’s portrayal lights up the screen. The screenplay based on Scott’s journal and firsthand experience gives a sense of realism to the story that makes this more than just a ‘based on the life’ vignette, lifting it to a film that feels like the audience is seeing Rachel’s life in her own words.
“People aren’t going to accept us because of our faith, but we just have to love them anyway.” -- Scott
Audiences will find themselves challenged by Scott’s story - not just the ending. What are we supposed to be? What are we supposed to do? How can we make a difference - as teens or adults - when the world around us seems intent on dragging us down? Can we love them even when they deeply hurt us? Can we share our faith in a powerful and non-judgmental way, proving to the world that we’re who we are supposed to be?
Scott has been elevated as an example of faith because of one day in the spring of 1999, but the truth is, Scott’s story is so much greater than that moment. Now, audiences everywhere will experience her struggle, her journey, and ultimately, her triumph, as she became a light to those around her - as she pushed back the darkness through the love of Christ.