Posted on September 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving violence and substance abuse
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and discussions of drug abuse
Violence/ Scariness: Prison escape, violent murders, tense confrontations, hostage situation
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: September 18, 2015
Copyright 2014 BN Films
Copyright 2014 BN Films

Two desperate people who think they have nothing discover that there is still a lot more to lose in this fact-based story about an escaped prisoner and the woman he held captive.

The story made headlines throughout the country. Ashley Smith, a young widow still in her 20’s, was in the early, fragile stages of recovery from drug abuse. Her daughter was living with Smith’s aunt, but Smith was working hard to be able to care for her. Brian Nichols was in prison, charged with rape. When he was being transferred for his trial, he beat the security guard, stole the civilian clothes he was to wear for the trial, and went on the run, killing a judge and three other people. He grabbed Smith, and forced her to let him into her apartment. He held her there for seven hours before she was able to leave and call 911. While they were together, they talked, she made him pancakes, and she read aloud to him from Rick Warren’s best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?. The book was given to her by a woman in her 12-step group, and she tossed it in the garbage. But it was waiting for her again at her job. The woman who gave it to her got it out of the garbage can and left it for her.

Kate Mara plays Smith and David Oyelowo plays Nichols, and the heart of the movie is seeing each of them find some humanity in the other. Neither has any reason to trust, and neither does much to earn trust, either. “I’m a mother!” she says when he first captures her. She wants him to see her as a person, and as a person someone else depends on. But she tells him the truth, that her daughter is not there and will not be returning. And then she lies to him and says that her husband is coming home soon. He asks her for weed, and she says there isn’t any, but he can tell from the way she says it that she is holding something else. It is “ice” (meth) and it is in a small packet she almost could not resist shortly before Nichols captured her.

He takes some and tries to force her to take the rest. But she realizes that she would literally rather die than start using again, and it is the strength of that moment that is the turning point for her. Hopped up on drugs, Nichols says he wants Smith and her daughter to come with him to Mexico. He will kidnap his infant son and they can all be together. But he knows it is impossible. Listening to the book, or perhaps seeing Smith get the message that she can still have a purpose even after all her mistakes, helps him understand what he must do. Smith herself says that moment was when faith in God’s love filled her heart and she knew she would be all right.

The movie loses momentum when it shifts to the law enforcement efforts to track Nichols. What matters is two people who think they have lost everything and how one of them chooses life, hope, and purpose.

Parents should know that this movie includes a prison escape with four brutal murders, guns plus reference to drug dealing and another murder, hostage, drugs and discussion of drug abuse, some strong language, and issues of child custody and parental fitness.

Family discussion: What were the most meaningful parts of the time they spent together to Ashley? To Brian? What book would you want to read to someone afraid and in pain?

If you like this, try: the book by Ashley Smith Robinson and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life

Related Tags:


Based on a book Based on a true story Crime Drama Movies Spiritual films

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