After a brief but harrowing time trying to survive on the street, Apple ends up in the hospital, where she meets a priest (James Earl Jones) who takes an interest in helping her and her unborn child. Apple initially rejects the good Father's help, but after her mother shows up hoping to cash in on the additional welfare checks the baby will bring, Apple agrees to give Several Sources a try. The remainder of the film follows Apple as she moves into the shelter with several other pregnant girls her age and tries to rebuild her life despite the continued attempts of her increasingly violent mother to get her to return home.
Vanessa Hudgens is surprisingly effective as Apple. Best known for her role in Disney's High School Musical movies, Hudgens is currently going through that inevitable phase of her career where she feels the need to prove she's an adult now. Unfortunately, her last few films – despite their supposed artistic intentions – have basically involved the former teen star stripping down and cussing like a sailor. Because, you know, that's how you prove you're an adult – just ask Miley Cyrus. In Gimme Shelter, however, Hudgens shows she has the emotional range to carry a serious film, and she finally earns some of that elusive respect that wearing a thong just doesn't seem to bring. All in all, she's entirely convincing as the physically and emotionally battered young girl who doesn't want to abort her child.
As Bishop de Paula points out, Gimme Shelter is unabashedly pro-life in its message, but what the movie gets right that so many 'soul winners' don't is that, despite the subject matter, the film never lapses into proselytizing. Not once does the film come screeching to a halt so someone can deliver a sermon. That's not to say that faith is absent from the movie – on the contrary, from the moment Jones's priest makes his appearance, God becomes a noticeable presence. The girls attend a Mass, there are rosaries scattered about, characters pray. Religion is there, but it flows naturally from the story instead of being force fed to the viewer. Visually, the film is better made than most church-promoted movies, as well. Nothing flashy, but competently made.
Overall, the final product is akin to an above-average Lifetime movie, but one with a more-than-worthy pro-life theme. And really, how many times this coming year are you actually going to have the chance to see a film in the theaters that comes bishop-endorsed? That alone is worth at least a matinée.
In a world he didn't create, in a time he didn't choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he's not reviewing new releases for Aleteia, David Ives spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.