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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘Gimme Shelter’

This true story provides an opportunity to see 'hope' and to step up and shelter the vulnerable among us

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman | @CinemaInFocus |

4 Stars — Inspiring

Caring for the most vulnerable among us is the goal of compassionate people, but to do so is far more difficult than we often realize. There are many today who live without the care of loving parents or a faithful community, suffering abuse, homelessness, poverty and death. A variety of films present this reality in ways that help us both understand and act upon our understanding. One such artist is Ron Krauss and his film Gimme Shelter.

Based on a true story, Krauss both writes and directs a compelling tale of Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens). A troubled pregnant 16-year-old whose mother, June (Rosario Dawson), has become addicted and brutal, Apple has set out to seek shelter from the father she never knew.

With a cherished handwritten letter that reveals his name as Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser), Apple finds his home in a wealthy suburb of New Jersey. Remarkably sensitive but now married with two more children, Tom opens his home to her but is quickly opposed by his wife, Joanna (Stephanie Szostak).

In ways that are diabolical, Joanna talks her husband into convincing Apple to abort her baby, but when she rushes from the clinic to save her baby's life, Apple is once again vulnerable on the street and acts to protect herself but ends up arrested and in the hospital. It is into this vulnerable place that her prayer of desperation is finally answered.

The power of the film lies in its authenticity. It does not give pat answers to difficult questions, or make faith a simple path. God's intervention in Apple's life is a result of both her own openness to His offered solutions, but also due to the faithful obedience of others who open their homes and hearts to this vulnerable young woman and her unborn child.

One of those faithful servants of God is Kathy (Ann Dowd). A former homeless young person herself who had experienced God's provision, she opened her own home to young teen mothers so they could keep their babies and experience the support of true community. Choosing to come into her shelter, Apple experiences love for the first time in her life, and she values those relationships over even the wealthy lifestyle her father offers.

If this was not a true story, there are those who would say it was contrived. Yet for those of us who live in faithful hope and know God's guidance and provision through His people, such experiences are not only common but also the fulfillment of our trust in him.

Gimme Shelter is the cry of the vulnerable and presents a call to accept responsibility for all people of good heart. Though gritty in its realistic depiction of life on the streets and not a film for children, we recommend this film to adults due to its call to our hearts.


» Apple's decision to save the life of her child was met with the positive response of the church that supported the shelter that was provided to her. What are you doing to support those in need of shelter, and especially of both mother and child in their time of vulnerability?

» The counsel that Tom provided Apple to "turn the page" and abort her child is his solution to the difficult moments of his life, such as when June carried his baby and would not abort Apple. The truth is that such pages remain a part of our stories and cannot be avoided. What do you think we should do instead of "turning the page" in such situations?

» It is difficult to imagine a person's life transforming without the help of others. How are you a part of helping others in their moments of need so that positive change can occur?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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