And on TV... Amish Grace
by Phil Boatwright

FILM SYNOPSIS: This made-for-television drama stars Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride" Parts I and II) as Ida Graber, an Amish woman dealing with the tragic loss of her daughter after the shooting by a crazed outsider who swore vengeance on God after his own baby girl died. The true story is about the aftermath of the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The book's title best summarizes the production's theme – "Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy."

PREVIEW REVIEW: "It's a good thing the Amish don't have televisions, if only so they won't have to sit through this," says Keith Staskiewicz in the March 26 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Of course, a review is just an opinion, but when I read someone's take on a film that is completely opposite of my own, I find myself going through steps much like those of any order of self-improvement: denial, anger, suspicion and finely, forgiveness. At no point is the Christian reviewer supposed to say of a colleague, no matter how misguided he may be, that he's a boob. So, I won't.

"Riveting, emotionally stirring, a powerful TV experience." That's the impact Amish Grace had on this viewer. For me, it wasn't a defense of a religious sect, but rather, a penetrating examination of the concept of true forgiveness. Like Facing the Giants, this telefilm may have a few of the same production misdemeanors, but like Facing the Giants, it's an important film because it deals with spiritual truths and provides a positive answer to a nagging question.

One of the greatest mysteries of the Christian walk is this ability to forgive those who wrong us. I have come to the conclusion, after dealing with this inability in my own life, that we are unable to forgive on our own. Hurt, dismay, a fierce belief that right should always triumph, a lack of faith, and pride, the inability to turn over to God the wrongs done to us, can only be healed by the great physician Himself. Because this is a true story of such horrific proportions, and because of Kimberly Williams-Paisley's nuanced performance, we are forced to examine the concept of forgiveness in our own makeup. The film is haunting.

Though it is a difficult film to sit through because it is dealing with the killing of innocent children, and its aftermath on both the families of the victims and the perpetrator is gut-wrenching, the film is engrossing because we are seeking the same answer as the protagonists: how do we forgive those who trespass against us?

While I disagree with several tenets of the Amish faith, to maintain their existence they have had to dig deep within their teachings in order to keep an ever-changing world at bay. The production convinced me by the closing credits that to gain an understanding of Jesus' command to forgive your enemy takes an understanding of biblical principles, and to do that we need to study that book. I doubt I'll give up my TV or phone, but I was taught by the devotion and sincerity of the Amish.

I teared up several times during this film, and at times was grieved by the reality that such injustice permeates our world. Though we mainly want entertainment on television to be just diverting, occasionally a production such as Amish Grace touches us, moves us, aids us. I was viewing something that had substance. It made me think. What really saddened me was that rather than watch this Lifetime Movie Network presentation, countless people would tune in to Desperate Housewives or some such hypnotizing blather.

Amish Grace airs Sunday, March 28th, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime's sister network. Watch it. Even if I'm overly zealous in my praise, it ain't going to hurt ya. Going to church when it's on? Record it, then you can decide if I was more discerning than Entertainment Weekly's Keith Staskiewicz. (Hey, he's not really a boob.)

Amish Grace also stars Matt Letscher (Brothers & Sisters) as Ida's husband and Tammy Blanchard (Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows) in a touching and poignant performance as the shooter's wife, Amy Roberts. Gregg Champion directs the teleplay by Sylvie White and Teena Booth.

TV-PG, the subject matter may be disturbing to young children. The grief displayed by the mother of the victim and the wife of the shooter is palpable. Though we see covered bodies being taken from the schoolhouse, nothing is explicit. We do not see or even hear the shootings.

"If we forgive, God promises that peace will follow."