Students for Life hosted a movie night of sorts last Wednesday. The movie was Dead Man Walking, a critically acclaimed film based off of true events undergone by Sister Helen Prejean. Sister Prejean is played by the talented actress Susan Sarandon. Sean Penn plays Matthew, a convicted murderer who seeks Sister Prejean’s guidance.
I had seen the movie once previously, and remembered it as an emotional experience. I have had the “death penalty conversation” numerous times with close friends, family members, and teachers. It is always a touchy subject–of course, why wouldn’t it be–and it is not a surprise that so many people are unwilling to talk about it. At the very least, Dead Man Walking opens up the conversation and makes it virtually impossible to ignore.
Sister Prejean constantly struggles with her position. Matthew has asked her to be his spiritual guide, providing Sister Prejean with a moral dilemma. As you watch the film, you become more attached to not only Sister Prejean and her plight, but to Matthew. If you have not seen the film, you might be confused and surprised–how could you side with a convicted murderer?
I spent most of the film trying to decide my feelings. Where did I stand on the issues presented in the film? What would I have done if I were Sister Prejean? Would I have had enough courage to even meet with Matthew, to accept his calls? The only thing I was sure of when the movie ended was that I wasn’t sure. The death penalty is complicated. It is not black and white, but severely gray. That is precisely the reason why it is so hard for so many to organize their thoughts on the matter.
Among 32 other states in the U.S., Missouri has the death penalty. If you have not seen the film, I strongly encourage you to watch it and to start the conversation.