Newtown is probably one of the more emotional movie-going experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life, professional and non-professional. I knew going into the noon Sunday screening that it would be tough, but not to the extent of what I thought it was. I’m getting a little emotional looking at the header image of the kid running with the school bus, as that young man, Daniel, was one of the murdered children at the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in December of 2012. It was an event that rocked the nation to its core, and one mass shooting that was unfortunately not the last one in the United States. Kim Snyder directs this powerful and moving portrait of a town that has been slowly coping with being forever synonymous with an unspeakable American tragedy, and portrays the people in this tiny Connecticut town with grace and humility. Newtown is a powerful moving-going experience, and one that is essential for everyone in this country to see.
There is a small group of families that are featured predominantly in the film. Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan, who was killed, Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed, and David Wheeler, whose son Ben was also killed. These aren’t all the stories of Newtown, but these are the stories that were willing to go on camera and talk about their children, and how they’ve coped with the loss. These three parents are featured so predominately due to their efforts to lobby for gun control legislation in Congress (which has been stricken down every time its introduced), and their efforts to remember their kids by setting up charities and speaking about the tragedy all across the country.
As essential as viewing this movie is, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I was crying the whole time, along with the entire audience. There was not one dry eye in that entire theater, but Snyder doesn’t exploit this tragedy or our emotions during this film. She directs this film with respect that’s unprecedented, and gives these grieving families an opportunity to tell their story and how we as a country should do something about this gun issue so a Dylan or a Daniel or a Ben isn’t killed next going to school.
It’s also a film that’ll make you angry due to the fact that politicians across the country haven’t bothered to do anything to tighten access to guns in this country. It seemed fitting that the premiere was a few blocks from the Texas State capital, a building where they passed a jaw-dropping Concealed Open Carry law last year. It’s a building that is housed with nutcases for the 2nd Amendment and this never-ending paranoia of the government coming for our guns, and it has to stop. Gregg Abbott is too stubborn of a man to even bother with this film, but I plead as a citizen of Texas, the state that he presides over, that he watch this film and have it open his eyes to one of the biggest problems in the United States today.
Shortly after the film, Snyder and her producer appeared for a Q and A, along with Nicole and Abbey and Sarah Clements. Abbey was a school teacher on the day of the shooting, and was one of the few where her and her classroom was not killed. The audience and I gave the three subjects a minute (or two) standing ovation, which was probably the only standing ovation at this festival that is worth such. These three women are heroes of mine now, and what they did to appear not only in this film but in the Paramount Theatre and talk about this unspeakable tragedy in front of us, is nothing short of brave. Brave doesn’t even begin to describe how wonderful these women are. For this and the reasons listed above is why you must see Newtown when it’s released later this year (a release date has not been set yet). It’s the most important film you’re going to see in 2016.
No rating because like Matt Goldberg of Collider did for his review, it would be disrespectful to give a rating to this film, good or bad.