Amish Abduction tells the story of Annie (Sara Canning) and Jacob (Steve Byers).
As you may have guessed from the title (and the trailer, if you watched it), Annie and Jacob are Amish. They live in a simple home. They dress modestly. They ride around in a buggy. Annie talks about how little she trusts “the English.” They spend a lot of time working in the fields. They appaear to be about as Amish as Amish can be. However, it quickly becomes obvious that Jacob has grown disillusioned with Amish life. He wants to leave the community and live with the English. He’s even purchased a phone! “Look at everything that it can do!” he says in amazement as he stares down at the screen in his palm. He tries to give Annie a phone as well but Annie has no use for it. Not yet, anyways….
However, it turns out that Jacob is not merely suffering from a second Rumspringa. Jacob’s gotten into some serious trouble. He’s been buying whiskey from one of the English, a redneck who likes to wander around in the Pennsylvania wilderness. When the redneck starts acting like a jackass, Jacob kills him. When the police show up at the village and start asking questions, the Amish keep quiet. They want nothing to do with the outside world.
One morning, Annie wakes up and discovers that Jacob has left during the night. He’s abandoned his culture, his religion, and his wife. However, Jacob has taken their son with him. Jacob is willing to go to court and demand custody. Annie will have to leave the village and enter the world of the English in order to save her son from his increasingly demented father.
Ah, the Amish. I have actually lost track of the number of movies that I’ve seen about the Amish. Films about the Amish always emphasize the idea that the Amish are simple people who reject modern technology and still live the way that their ancestors lived back in the very distant past. Inevitably, these movies always have at least one scene where an Amish person is amazed by a television or a radio or a phone.
Of course, the truth is far more complicated. There’s a fascinating documentary called Devil’s Playground, that follows several Amish teens as they go through Rumspringa, which is a time when they can take part in the modern world and decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized into the Amish church or to leave the community. As that documentary demonstrated, just because the Amish don’t take part in much of modern society, that doesn’t mean that they’re ignorant of it. Unfortunately, most films take a far more simplistic (and rather condescending) approach to portraying the Amish.
That said, Amish Abduction is one of the better “Amish” films that I’ve seen recently. That doesn’t necessarily mean that its a 100% accurate but it does mean that, at the very least, it treats its characters as something more than just outsiders to be gawked at. Sara Canning, in particular, gives a good and heartfelt performance as Annie and the film presents her character and her concerns in a fair and even-handed manner. She was particularly strong during one scene in which Annie has a nightmare about what it would like to become one of the English. Amish Abduction may be about the Amish but it’s also about a woman trying to protect the most important thing in her life and who can’t relate to that?