Sept. 14, 2010
Bob Rumnick, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Fay Masterson, Matt Letscher
Warner Home Video
In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.
By Todd E. Jennings
Editor's Note: Amish Grace releases on DVD nationwide Sept. 14, 2010. Below you'll find CBN.com's review of the made-for-TV movie.
On a chilly October day in 2006, an armed man entered a one-room schoolhouse in the heart of an Amish community in Pennsylvania. The classroom, filled with young students, was the scene of a botched hostage-taking that ended with 10 young Amish girls shot—of them, 5 were killed—and the gunman dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The story, and the investigation and events that followed it, garnered national headlines. Beyond the tragedy of several children being murdered in an Amish school and the strange circumstances that led the shooter to do such a despicable act, the media soon focused on another element of the story—the forgiveness the Amish community extended the killer’s family.
Any time I see an advertisement for a “ripped-from-the-headlines” TV-movie, I’m always a little weary. These types of films can often walk a fine line of being exploitive, playing on the natural morbid curiosity people have when hearing about these kinds of tragedies. That’s why when I was asked to review the Lifetime movie Amish Grace, I had some reservations. Thankfully, after seeing the film, my concerns were for relieved.
Amish Grace avoids any of the potentially exploitive or graphic parts of the story, and instead focuses on what the title suggests—grace. The film centers on a fictional family, the Grabers, the parents and younger sister of one of the girls that were killed in the shooting. Through their perspective, we get a glimpse into the Amish way of life, their views on God, and the events that unfolded on that October day.
The filmmakers managed to show the horror and tragedy of the day of the shooting, without actually showing the violence, and as hard as it might sound, managed to tastefully (yet still in a way that was emotionally effecting) depict the events of that day.
Instead of using the violence to propel the story, the film focuses on larger themes—vengeance, forgiveness, obedience, conflicts of faith, and community.
While the story unfolds, we learn only a few details about the killer himself—and his motivations for such a terrible crime. He had lost his own daughter years earlier, and committed the crime as an act of revenge against God.
The fictional Garbers, the family that lost their daughter in the shooting, offer us a closer look at the more subtle conflicts. As the Amish community reaches out to the wife of the killer and offer their own forgiveness for the acts her husband committed, Ida Garber, the mother of the murdered student, struggles with the idea of forgiveness. In the days that follow the shooting, she contemplates why God would require her to reach out to the spouse of her daughter’s killer. Through this inner-conflict, Ida begins to question her own faith and even the Amish way of life.
Overall, Amish Grace is both inspiring and challenging. Though most of us will never experience a tragedy of this magnitude first-hand, we all know what’s it’s like to be wronged—and we all know how hard it can be to forgive. Amish Grace does a good job of not just telling a story, but showing how forgiveness can help heal even the deepest wounds.
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