Here’s a 2004 film that really went under the radar.  It was screened at Sundance and aired on Showtime and Lifetime, but I’d never heard of it.  Based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, it tells the story of a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who is brutally raped at a party by a senior boy.

Speak-Movie-kristen-stewart-7224892-960-540Unable to deal with her experience in any way, Melinda doesn’t tell anyone about what happened, but does call 911, which brings the police down on the party.  In a state of shock, she walks home alone, then retreats into herself and goes nearly silent to the world.  Shunned by her friends, targeted by other students, she finds it nearly impossible to deal with high school.  Pushed by her art teacher, she begins to draw and sculp.  Continually backing away from others, she finds an abandoned janitor’s closet and makes it her own, filling it with her art and retreating there during pep rallys.

At the time this movie was made, actress Kristen Steward was only 13 years old, but her performance is stunningly beautiful.  (Whatever you may think about Stewart because of Twilight, the girl is just an excellent actress, hands down.)  She is completely believable as Melinda as the story of the rape is told in flashbacks spaced throughout the film.  The excellent supporting cast includes Elizabeth Perkins as her mother, Steve Zahn as her art teacher, Mr. Freeman, and Allison Siko as a girl named Heather who adopts and then abandons Melinda.

The adaptation was written by Annie Young Frisbie and Jessica Sharzer, who also deftly directed the movie inside a 21 day shooting schedule.  The film moves quickly and is so absorbing it’s almost impossible not to watch once you get going.  At a near perfect 89 minutes in length, the film should be on everyone’s watch list.


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