NEW YORK—In the film Gimme Shelter, which hits theaters today, a homeless, pregnant teenager named Apple goes to an appointment for an abortion, which her uninvolved Wall Street father arranged. Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) looks at an ultrasound photo of her baby and decides she can't do it.
Through an encounter with a pastor, Apple ends up on the doorstep of a shelter for pregnant teens, based on a real life Catholic organization in New Jersey called Several Sources Shelters, whose objective is “to help save the lives of pre-born babies of young pregnant mothers.” The young mothers, often turned out of their homes, can come live at Several Sources’ shelters during their pregnancies and for a year after their babies are born. The shelters help with education, parenting classes, and counseling. In the movie, all the babies but one who appear onscreen were born to moms in the shelters.
“There’s not a lot of movies about pregnancy because people associate it with pro-life or not, and it becomes political,” said Hudgens, who auditioned for another “pregnancy” movie—Juno—earlier in her career. “There’s not a lot of knowledge about these places,” she said about Several Sources. Kathy DiFiore, portrayed in the movie, is the real-life woman who started Several Sources after she had been homeless herself.
“I don’t think about the politics,” DiFiore said. “It’s just fragile human beings.”
Ron Krauss, the director who spent a year at DiFiore’s shelter before making the movie, seemed a little miffed to be asked if this was a pro-life movie.
“Pro-life, pro-choice, I don’t get into that,” he said. “How do you put politics on people who need help? The only people who ask that are people who are looking to write a story. This movie is about a lot of things: family, poverty, foster care, about helping other people. … As a filmmaker I had no objective other than to honor this shelter and the struggles of these girls.”
Rosario Dawson, who plays Apple’s abusive mother June, said the film resonated because her mom had her as a teenager. Though Dawson described herself as “pro-choice,” she said, “You can read whatever you want to read” from the film, and she praised shelters like DiFiore’s.
Dawson recounted that her mother’s experience was different from Apple’s because her family was supportive—even if in a bizarre way. When Dawson’s mom told her own mother she was pregnant, she bit the teen on the arm, then pulled out knitting needles to make booties for the baby.
“It takes a village for the mom,” Dawson said. “What a different story if [June] had found Kathy.”
Gimme Shelter is rated PG-13 for depiction of drug use, language, and some violence.