In 2006 a lone gunman entered a school located in the Amish Community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. He took all the children in the school hostage, eventually shot and killed five young Amish girls and then killed himself. The aftermath of this shooting and the forgiveness of the Amish people towards this man and his family make up the plot of Amish Grace, an original movie which will be presented on the Lifetime Movie Network.
The basic story told in the TV movie is true but factors and characters in the story have been enlarged or changed to provide a dramatic telling. A fictional family called the "Grabers" is the focus of the film. Ida (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and Gideon (Matthew Lescher) Graber are the parents of two girls, one of whom is killed in the massacre.
Elders of the Amish community, immediately following the massacre, seek out the widow of the gunman and offer their condolences on her loss, and affirm their forgiveness for her husband's acts. The widow, Amy Roberts (Tammy Blanchard), is overwhelmed by their forgiveness and can hardly absorb what they are saying.
Not everyone agrees with being so forgiving and there is some hostility in the Amish community for this being done. Yet the overall theme of the film is one of forgiveness and love.
Williams-Paisley is effective as Ida. She creates in her a character who is not as forgiving as her neighbors. She shows that for Ida to forgive the murderer would be, to her, an abandonment of her daughter's love. It is a performance with range and shows Williams-Paisley's growth as an actress.
Even better is Blanchard as the stunned Amy Roberts. Blanchard can convey an enormous range of emotions with just her body language. Then she adds tremendous acting talent to the mix which enables her to inhabit the character. This is an amazing young actress and she deserves to get better and better roles.
The weakest member of the cast is Faye Masterson who plays a TV reporter who is touched by the story. There is no depth to this character at all. She is played only on the surface. Her involvement with the Amish families could have been a strong blend of the outside community with the religious one, but there is nothing special or emotional about the way Masterson presents this character.
Some might dismiss Amish Grace as mawkish soap opera but they would be missing the point of the film. The way the Amish put their beliefs into action is an amazing story. It is a lesson about true humbleness to their faith, at one of the most difficult times in their lives. It makes for an inspiring movie and a totally believable one.
Amish Grace premieres on the Lifetime Movie Network, Sunday, March 28 at 8PM EST/5PM PST.
Jackie K. Cooper - www.jackiekcooper.com
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