Monday, April 4, 2011

The Matthew Shepard Story

Because I enjoy ripping my own heart out and pouring napalm into the gaping hole, I watched this movie tonight. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent movie (one of those TV movies that give TV movies a better reputation than they usually deserve) but I knew it would be heart wrenching and painful and I decided to watch it anyway. This movie needs a trigger warning bigger than the sun, because first of all, the brutal beating of Matthew Shepard is shown in more gory detail than I expected, and they keep showing it throughout the movie in flashbacks (because it wasn't disturbing enough the first time) plus there's a rape scene in the movie that I didn't even know was coming, so anyone reading this who might be triggered, I want you to have more warning than I did.

Otherwise, there's much to recommend here. The performances are great. I love watching Stockard Channing and Sam Waterston in anything, and Shane Meier did a great job portraying Matthew. For those who don't know the story, Matthew Shepard was a college student in Wyoming who was beaten to a pulp and tied to a fence and left to die in 1998. Fred Phelps (the infamous founder of the Westboro Baptist Church - which pickets at the funerals of gay people and soldiers telling people that "God hates fags") protested outside Matthew Shepard's funeral and outside the trial of his killers, so he and his merry band of hatemongers figure largely into the movie. This movie focuses on Matthew's life before he was killed and how his parents cope a year after his death with the trial and the issue of whether to seek the death penalty for their son's killers.

Seeing Fred Phelps and his followers protest is always hard for me because it hits so close to home - Fred Pehlps protested locally five years back at the funeral of a local soldier named Matt Webber - you can read
my earlier post about that protest here
. The movie does end on a hopeful note, but there's a lot in it that's harsh and cruel and angrymaking, so enter at your own risk.