CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – It would be easy to make Rachel Scott into a modern-day "evangelical saint" if filmmakers wanted to do so.
Thankfully, though, the writers and director behind the new movie I'm Not Ashamed (PG-13) did not do that – and it is far more powerful and believable for it. The movie hits theaters this weekend.
Scott was the first person killed during the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999, and her Christian walk and testimony became the subject of several books, including the bestseller "Rachel's Tears."
In her final seconds on Earth Scott refused to deny Christ. When asked by one of the gunmen, "Do you still believe in God?" she reportedly responded, "You know I do" – before being shot. The morning of the shooting, she even drew a picture of two eyes shedding 13 tears – and later that day the gunmen killed 13 people. Lots of Christians consider it a prophetic drawing.
But the Rachel Scott (Masey McLain) depicted in I'm Not Ashamed is no, well, Mother Teresa. She struggles with a temptation to drink and smoke, and she desperately wants to date the cutest boy around – although he wants her for only one thing. (Don't worry – the film remains family-friendly.)
In other words, she is like a lot of Christian teenagers in high schools everywhere, wanting to live a life for Christ but fighting that tug to be popular and accepted.
The movie is based on Scott's diaries, in which she kept a detailed account of her daily life and her spiritual walk.
At one point in the film when a bottle of alcohol is found in her car, she tells her mom: "I'm trying to make an impact." Her mom responds: "I think they're impacting you more."
I found myself siding with her mom on that one, yet as the movie progressed, I began to cheer for Rachel. That's because she finally woke up to the fact that the things of this world – the drinking and the sex and the partying – are not the source of joy. Sure, she began the movie as a Christian, but by the end she is – in the words of Bill McCartney – a "sold-out" Christian.
"I lost most of my friends at school ... [but] it's all worth it to me," she says after she decides to get serious about her faith.
She ends up doing what I hope my children do when they're in high school – taking up for those who normally are bullied. And, get this: Through it all she earns the respect of most everyone else, even the popular kids. They start going to her when they have problems and need "life advice." She wins over people with compassion and love.
After her death, her friends are truly grieved: "She was what a Christian ought to be."
I'm Not Ashamed is the inspirational movie of the year, and McLain – playing her first leading movie role – is phenomenal. Yes, I cried. (Although I must warn you: The story gets off to a slow start.)
It is rated PG-13 for thematic material, teen drinking & smoking, disturbing violent content and some suggestive situations, but the massacre itself plays only a minor role in the film, lasting perhaps a minute. (Scroll down for content details).
I'm Not Ashamed succeeds because it shows us — warts and all — the true story of a regular teenager girl who wanted to make a difference for Christ. We need more teens like her.
It's not appropriate for small children, but I highly recommend it for teenagers.
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Language: No profanity. The worst we hear is "suck," "oh my gosh," "crap" and "fart knockers."
Sexuality: None. Scott kisses two boys, including once scene in which he puts his hand on her hip and she pushes away.
Violence: The massacre scene shows only the shootings outside the school. The shooters kill Rachel's friend and then her. Earlier in the film, we watch the shooters get bullied. They play violent video games and read about Hitler. At one point, Rachel also considers suicide (jumping off a building).