I'm Not Ashamed full movie review - Maybe the Best Christian Film
I'm Not Ashamed is based on the life and premature death of Rachel Joy Scott, a student who went to Columbine High School on the fateful day Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris committed, what was at the time the worst school shooting in U.
S. history. The film is brought to you by Pure Flix Entertainment, an independent Christian film and television studio which should give you an indication of who this movie is for and what it's trying to accomplish. Given my particular track-record with this production company, I came in fully expecting to hate this film - especially given its uncomfortable subject matter. Yet by the time the film reached its inevitable, heartbreaking conclusion, I must admit, this little Christian title had me a bit misty-eyed.
The film begins with a young Rachel drawing on her wardrobe cabinet with Crayon. We're given a brief tour of her broken home before she's whisked away as a teen to Louisiana for the summer to stay with her aunt (under the pretense of avoiding negative influences). It is in Louisiana she rediscovers Christ, starting her sophomore year at Columbine as a baby born again with a necklace cross to prove it. Yet as she rejoins her friends she soon recognizes the struggle of being disciplined in a school culture dominated by teenage angst, blossoming libidos and weekend partying.
Is I'm Not Ashamed Ham-fisted; yeah, pompous and overbearing; sure, amateurish in its execution; you bet, but the story, partially taken from Rachel's diary has a ring of truth to it. We're put into her head-space and can empathize with her struggles to fit in while staying true to her values, finding humility in ourselves as she stumbles, falls and gets up again learning as she goes. For once I felt like I was watching a movie about a Christian instead of a Christian movie. It never feels like a lecture or a sermon but rather a case for understanding; a peek into a worldview through a coming-of-age tale.
The story is served stupendously by the young Masey McLain who doesn't so much debut as arrives to the medium announcing she's the genuine article. She easily sidesteps the stodgy staging, internalizes the poorly delivered lines of her counterparts and reacts like everything is designed for her. That's no easy feat when you have a movie that has her pulling a manic pixie girl routine for a homeless man (Davies) with poorly designed tribal tattoos and the haircut of a 1960's NASA employee.
Additionally, the very rudimentary direction and cinematography can't help but undercut the film at every turn. There wasn't a single inspired moment. Of course an argument can be made that I'm Not Ashamed purposely eschews the Norman Rockwell sheen of Miracles from Heaven (2016) or Heaven is For Real (2014) to give it a certain authenticity. Yet I'd be more receptive to that idea if it wasn't so obvious they were trying for it. At it's best the film has the poorly executed sweep of a below average music video complete with scenes of the least exciting teenage ragers in history. At its worst I'm Not Ashamed resembles a Valtrex commercial.
A lot can be said about producer David A.R. White and Pure Flix's unabashed cavort towards Christ-ploitation but at least there's little doubt they actually believe what they're selling. I'd be lying if I said I didn't pruriently enjoy the flippant potshots towards groups not attune to the film's values - in this case the silliest analog is Cameron McKendry as a crush who "doesn't want to use labels". At this point, the kind of culture war contrarianism this kind of stuff is known for should be reacted to with a roll of the eyes.
Yet when all is said and done, Rachel's initial message of compassion and kindness shines through the usual muck and noise. While yes, it might be just as shabby looking as your average 7th Heaven (1996- 2007) riff, the familiar wrapping shouldn't necessarily dissuade. For once we're treated to a grown up, Christian worldview that proudly states what it's about instead of quibbling over what it's against. Considering that almost never happens, I'm Not Ashamed is arguably the best Christian film made yet.
And yes I did chuckle during the credits when, once again, we were zealously given the number to the film's text campaign.