Strongly centered in a biblical worldview
|Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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Based on the journal entries of Rachel Joy Scott—the first student killed in the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado—I’M NOT ASHAMED tells her inspiring true story as a young Christian martyred for her faith in the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. high school in history. With strong biblical themes of light and darkness, I’M NOT ASHAMED powerfully portrays the challenges Scott faced as she walked out her faith—culminating in her willingness to sacrifice everything for Jesus. As Rachel’s story unfolds, moviegoers will likely find themselves asking if they, too, are willing to put their lives on the line for their faith.
Directed by Brian Baugh (BUTTERFLY CIRCUS) and distributed by Pure Flix Entertainment (HILLSONG: LET HOPE RISE, GOD’S NOT DEAD, GOD’S NOT DEAD 2, DO YOU BELIEVE?), I’M NOT ASHAMED features solid writing and an able cast, including Masey McLain as Rachel; Ben Davies (WAR ROOM, COURAGEOUS) as Nate; Cameron McKendry as Alex; Terri Minton (“Nashville”) as Rachel’s mother, Beth; Emma Elle Roberts (INSURGENT, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PARTS 1 and 2) as Celine; recording artist Jaci Velasquez as Mrs. Diaz; Korie Robertson (“Duck Dynasty,” GOD’S NOT DEAD) as Aunt Bea; and Sadie Robertson (“Duck Dynasty,” GOD’S NOT DEAD 2) as Rachel’s cousin, Charity.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
There are several powerful recurring themes in I’M NOT ASHAMED—all centered in the biblical truth that life can be hard, but God doesn’t waste anything, not even the bad things. Here, Rachel cries out to God, asking why He allows her to go through so much pain if He loves her so much. And we see that living for Jesus is not always easy, but it’s always right.
Beyond this, the contrast between light and dark found in the Gospel of John is prominently portrayed in I’M NOT ASHAMED—begging the question, “Which will you choose?” With wisdom beyond her years, Rachel comes to see that we seek answers in a world of lies—and that it’s often pain that drives us to stray from God.
Finally, after becoming convicted that she must respond to the nudge of the Holy Spirit and minister to those that God puts in front of her, Rachel poignantly writes, “Am I the only one who sees? Am I the only one who craves your glory?” Ultimately, Rachel decides that she will live for Jesus and let people take what they want from her witness.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
There is much to commend in terms of characters and their relationships in I’M NOT ASHAMED. As the film opens, a young and innocent Rachel is shown drawing on the side and back of her dresser. She loves to wear goofy hats and has a typical sibling relationship with her two sisters and two brothers. Their mother is depicted as a praying woman who seeks to raise her children in the ways of the Lord and struggles to make ends meet as a single mom in the wake of a divorce. After her mother remarries, Rachel is shown to have a warm and loving relationship with her step-dad, though not without the usual challenges of a blended family.
At Columbine High, Rachel—like all teens—struggles to find her identity and is tempted by peer pressure to compromise her faith. While she’s part of the “in crowd,” she also navigates in and out of other cliques with relative ease. One of her main interests is theater and she quickly falls for Alex, the star of the drama department and the first guy to really pay attention to her. As someone who is “spiritual” and dialed into “energy,” Alex believes that darkness is necessary to bring forth light—a worldview that contradicts with Rachel’s Christian faith. Clearly, Alex has the potential to lead Rachel astray and their relationship takes center stage. In the end, Rachel is convicted by the reality that she did not fully share her faith convictions with Alex—out of fear that he would reject her.
At times rebellious, Rachel gets grounded more than once and also loses her driving privileges. Her mother sends her to spend the summer with her Aunt Bea in Louisiana, and it is here that her cousin Charity encourages Rachel to get back on the path of Jesus again. Following a church praise and worship scene in which Rachel confesses her sins and recommits her life to Christ, Aunt Bee gives her a journal to write in. It is these heartfelt and profound journal entries that form the backbone of I’M NOT ASHAMED.
When it comes to Rachel’s high school girlfriends, Emma Elle Roberts delivers a particularly strong performance as Celine—a girl with a troubled background who, in the end, is responsive to Rachel’s witness for Christ. Their deep conversation about the purpose of pain—and how forgiveness can change the world is notable.
Finally—along with Alex—Rachel’s relationship with Nate is central to the film. In the context of her youth group’s weekly meetings, Rachel pursues the homeless Nate to share the Gospel and their relationship becomes like that of a big brother/little sister. However, as they journal back and forth, their hearts become increasingly knitted together and it is clear that Nate is the more godly choice over Alex for Rachel. Although theirs is a kind of unrequited love, the simple and understated scene when Rachel puts her head on Nate’s shoulder is powerful.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
I’M NOT ASHAMED handles a wide variety of potentially challenging situations in a faith-compatible, realistic and respectful way—depicting the often-messy realities of life in a broken world, but without being gratuitous. Beyond the topics of divorce and single parenthood, there are many depictions of teenage smoking, drinking and hooking up at parties while parents are away. At school, there is the ever-present specter of bullying as well as several onstage kisses in the context of a school play. Eventually, Rachel shares her faith in a classroom presentation, and she engages with a fellow student who thinks that all Christians are intolerant bigots in a way that is humble and winsome. And even though Rachel experiences some rejection from peers as she walks out her faith with increasing boldness, the film depicts her as an effective and genuine witness who meets people where they are.
To its credit, I’M NOT ASHAMED handles the horror of the Columbine massacre with sensitivity—relying primarily on news footage of the aftermath to convey selected details of the tragedy that claimed 13 lives and injured 24 others. And without glorifying the perpetrators—Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold—there is just enough background offered to help moviegoers understand how their hate-driven viewpoint developed over time.
Finally, I’M NOT ASHAMED does a good job of depicting the impact of Rachel’s youth group in the lives of its members. They celebrate communion together, share their struggles and pray for each other. And when the disconnect between unchurched Nate and the churched kids becomes painfully obvious, one young man steps up to offer the love of Jesus in a powerful way that draws Nate into fellowship with the group.
Family Viewing Suitability
At 112 minutes in length, I AM NOT ASHAMED is rated PG-13 for thematic material, including teen drinking and smoking, disturbing violent content, a contemplated suicide and some suggestive situations. And while the film’s rating suggests parental guidance for children under the age of 13, I’M NOT ASHAMED presents many situations that will encourage dialogue between family members who are appropriately mature. For example, the powerful scene in which Rachel’s classmates—one-by-one—place flowers on her car begs the question, “What kind of impact is my witness for Jesus having on those around me?”
I’M NOT ASHAMED is a highly engaging film that contrasts light and darkness—creating a natural and not forced point of convergence in which the viewer must ask if he or she is living a life worth dying for. It also asks if we, too, are as burdened by the darkness as Rachel was, and if we, too, would not be ashamed to boldly speak the name of Jesus in our spheres of influence.
And while some might see I’M NOT ASHAMED as more oriented to a faith-driven audience, secular moviegoers will likely find the treatment of the Columbine massacre in the context of life’s meaning and purpose interesting and thought-provoking. Overall, the cast and directing are strong, the script is well written, and the music appealing. In this sense, I’M NOT ASHAMED is a great movie for high school and college youth groups—and for outreach to nonbelievers.
Knowing that God doesn’t waste anything—even the bad things—Rachel Joy Scott chose light over darkness and ultimately touched tens of millions with her Christian testimony. What will your choice be?