After I finished up Ominous, it was time to deal with Cleveland Abduction. Why was it something that I had to “deal with?” Well, I originally watched Cleveland Abduction when it was broadcast on Lifetime way back in May. I meant to review it when I originally watched it but, every time I sat down to write about this movie, I just couldn’t. Just thinking about the movie and the true story that inspired it was too overwhelming and upsetting. Cleveland Abduction is one of the most disturbing and depressing (and yet also inspiring) movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly the most emotionally intense film to ever be made for Lifetime.
A friend of mine actually told me that she could only watch 15 minutes of Cleveland Abduction and then had to stop because she didn’t want the film’s ugliness to get inside her head. And I don’t blame her. Cleveland Abduction is an ugly film about three young women who were kidnapped, held prisoner, and repeatedly raped by an evil man. The film does not flinch from showing the details of their ordeal and it is all the more disturbing for being based on a true story.
I don’t know if I believe in demons or possession or anything like that but I do know that Ariel Castro was an evil man. Castro, a school bus driver and wannabe musician, abducted Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry off the streets of Cleveland. For 11 years, he held them prisoner in his filthy house. (Disturbingly, some of Castro’s neighbors actually saw the girls in the house but refused to get involved.) Rather than face a jury and spend the rest of his life as imprisoned as the three women he held captive in his house, Castro committed suicide in his jail cell.
The film centers on Castro’s first known victim, single mother Michelle Knight (a poignant performance from Taryn Manning, who perfectly captures Michelle’s quiet strength). Castro (played, in properly brutal fashion, by Raymond Cruz) runs into Michelle while she’s walking to court to try to win custody of her son. Castro offers her a ride and Michelle agrees. Castro takes her back to his house and her 11-year nightmare begins.
And it’s not easy to watch, nor should it be. The film doesn’t shy away from showing what Michelle and, eventually, the other two victims went through. Spending her days either handcuffed or in a locked bedroom, Michelle’s only escape comes from thinking about her son. When the other two girls are abducted, Michelle comforts them and help them to remain strong. Meanwhile, on the outside, the police assume that Michelle has just run away from her old life and they refuse to even look for her.
It’s ugly and disturbing and difficult and infuriating to watch. As I watched, I continually asked myself if I would be able to survive if I ever found myself in the same situation. I always like to assume that, since I always have pepper spray and I’m a fairly god runner, nobody would ever be able to abduct me but, as I sit here couch-bound with a sprained foot, I know that it’s never that simple. I also like to assume that I could be as strong as Michelle Knight. Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.
But here’s the thing — as disturbing and nightmarish as this film has to be — it’s ultimately a very inspiring film. For all the ugliness, Cleveland Abduction is ultimately a film about survival and tribute to the strength, courage, and sisterhood of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry. Based on Michelle’s book and featuring a compelling lead performance from Taryn Manning, Cleveland Abduction is not an easy film to watch but it is one that should be watched.