You can’t have a redemption story without going to some dark places, and though The Daily Wire’s first original production, “Shut In,” takes viewers on a journey through the hell of drug-addiction and spousal abuse, its ultimate end is one of resilience and hope.
Too often, films involving faith are centered on inauthentic characters, with sweet, inoffensive flaws, rather like a Hallmark movie. As a mom of two young daughters, I can appreciate some Hallmark binge time, but such stories rarely offer much spiritual depth. There’s little to be saved from there. The salvation is shallow because the sin and the suffering are shallow.
“Shut In” is different.
Jessica (Rainey Qualley), a single mom of an infant son and four-year-daughter is fighting, like so many despairing young Americans today, to keep her head above water. She’s in recovery from meth addiction and the one family member she could count on for help, her grandmother, has died. She’s on her own, broke, but determined for the sake of her children and their future not to fall back on the drugs that helped her cope with life in the past.
We wouldn’t expect a character with Jessica’s background to suddenly turn into a perfect parent the second she leaves rehab. And her emotional immaturity comes through when she loses her temper at her children in moments of stress. But her tenacity, her drive to do the next right thing for their sake also comes through as she hugs them close and asks for their forgiveness when she fails. She just needs life … God … someone to give her a chance.
Instead, fate seems determined to break her. When her ex Rob (Jake Horowitz) shows up with his drug-dealing, pedophile friend Sammy (played by the iconic cult film star Vincent Gallo), Jessica’s protective instincts take over. An argument with Rob turns into a full-blown violent assault that ends with Jessica locked in a pantry with a bag of white powder and her children at the mercy of a predator. She can either draw on the faith her grandmother taught her to fight for her life and theirs or give in to oblivion.
Every performance in “Shut In” is pitch perfect—nuanced and subtle. A lesser actor might have turned Sammy into a generic low-life caricature, instead the multifaceted Gallo plays him with a strange vulnerability underneath a quiet menace that’s all the more disturbing for its realism. His whining self-pity is both pathetic and terrifying. It’s the voice of a thousand monsters we’ve seen on a thousand court stands.
It’s tough stuff. It’s real stuff.
Christian audiences, in particular, often cite a particular verse when it comes to entertainment: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” What they often miss is that Philippians 4:8-9 instructs us to focus on the true along with noble and lovely. And the truth can often be ugly. Just ask the Old Testament.
The question is, what does a story ultimately do with the ugliness?
“Shut In” doesn’t wallow in the darkness, though it does show us just enough of its to feel the weight — the tragic stories we see in the news every day, the whispers of terrible family secrets, the depravity unleashed when years of drug use snuff out the human conscience. But it doesn’t stay in the ugliness as so many “edgy” films do.
Producer Amanda Presmyk revealed in an interview that at one point, when the script was with New Line, the studio wanted to make the character of Sammy more palatable to make the story less true. That would have been a mistake. Read any account of meth addiction and you’ll find that it consistently leaves children vulnerable to predators. “Shut In” doesn’t turn its eyes away from the truth. It just uses it to ultimately point to an even greater truth.
Light shines in the darkness and in the best stories, the darkness doesn’t overcome it.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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