For a woman who died at 17, Rachel Joy Scott’s life has had a profound effect, thanks to her parents’ efforts to share the message of Christian compassion that was the core of her identity — right up to the moment when she was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
Like the multiple books about Rachel’s life, the movie “I’m Not Ashamed” functions as a kind of posthumous religious testimony. Masey McLain plays Scott as a good-natured aspiring actress who feels alienated from her status-conscious peers, and does her best to model her beliefs by being helpful and positive.
Directed by Brian Baugh, “I’m Not Ashamed” is as much an episodic high school melodrama as it is a spiritual tract. Though the facts of Scott’s life have been lightly fictionalized, the movie is unusually frank about how smoking, drinking and fooling around are part of life even for “good” kids. There’s a refreshing lack of moralizing here, and a welcome emphasis on accepting people for who they are.
But the Columbine setting casts a large, chilling shadow over this film; and even though this is a (mostly) true story, the forced ironies of having infamous teen mass-murderers interact with the heroine feels more than a little exploitative.
This is an unavoidable stumbling block, granted. But at times, “I’m Not Ashamed” is vivid enough to make one pine for a Christian-leaning teen flick that doesn’t have such a blunt, preordained ending.
‘I’m Not Ashamed’
MPAA rating: PG-13, for thematic material, teen drinking and smoking, disturbing violent content and some suggestive situations.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: In general release.