Summary: In fall of 2006, a gunman takes the lives 5 Amish girls and injures several others in a terrible schoolhouse shooting near Nickel Mines, PA. Based on a true story, this movie depicts the Amish community putting their faith into action when it comes to the tough questions of faith, healing, and forgiveness.
My Review: I’d wanted to watch it since I had heard so much about it and found that it was one of the highest rated and most watched original movies on the Lifetime Movie Network. After viewing this film, I was surprised to find that it was received controversially. Some say this is because people are “Amish-crazed”, and this may be part of it. However, there is a deeper story here that I think people were hungry to see. We all have at least someone in our lives who has hurt us, and people wanted to see how the victims of a terrible tragedy could genuinely forgive the shooter for what he had done. That’s why I think a movie like this should have been made, and I applaud the film. It did get it’s complaints from those who criticized the blending of fiction with fact (the main Amish characters in the movie were fictional). However, I think it was good to have that distance in order to protect the privacy of the actual people involved in the event.
The beginning of the movie felt like sugar-coated sweetness the way they portrayed perfect Amish people living perfect, sugar-coated lives. However, as the film progressed and the characters are left to deal with the aftermath of the shooting, I felt their grief and struggle was very well acted by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Matt Letscher, and Tammy Blanchard. Blanchard’s performance (portraying the agony of the grieving gunman’s widow) was particularly excellent because it felt so realistic. I especially liked a scene between the father (Gideon Graber) and his daughter Katie, in which they talk about hate and forgiveness. I liked how it was not done in a cutsy, sympathy card style way, but they actually explored their feelings honestly together.
The film also got some blame for portraying the main character, Ida Graber (fictional), as struggling with her faith after the death of her daughter. I argue that is not something to be ashamed of to question what you believe in. Such questioning can make your faith stronger. And seeing as how the actors were playing fictional people, I don’t see anything wrong with the struggle of this character. It added realism to the story. Accepting forgiveness is not an easy choice, and if it was dished out to us as though it was, as though the Amish were super-humans, it would have been too unbelievable to accept.
The movie is not graphic. It is assumed you already are aware of the tragedy that occurred so it does not dwell in the moment of the shooting. This makes it easier to watch with children, and I would consider it a family movie.
This movie was loosely based on a book entitled, “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher, though the authors distanced themselves from the film. I have not read the book, but I got the impression it was a non-fiction book, and the movie is not necessarily “the book turned into a movie” but a movie based on historical facts documented in the book.
All-in-all, a movie worth seeing!
Click here to read an article about the testimony of director Larry Thompson.