12 January 2005 | tinkerbelllcf
The Greatest Story Never Told
I was very disappointed with Dawn Anna. I have been an avid Columbine researcher for nearly a year or so now and was highly looking forward to this movie. I almost feel horrible saying the movie was bad simply because it was all true events and tragic nonetheless. So, before I begin, I think the story itself is fascinating and inspiring, but it came across weak in this movie.
The story is Dawn Anna is a single mother of four terrific kids who is in desperate need of a job. So, in less than ten minutes, she gets one as a teacher. And five minutes from that, she decides to be the volleyball coach after meeting nice guy Bink, who wants to take her out to dinner and in no time, they're an official couple. The kids seem to warm up to him quickly except one, but a sudden turn of events puts that on hold. Dawn Anna discovers (after tumbling around in school and forgetting things easily) that she has some sort of brain tumor and it needs to be removed via opening the skull. So, in the span of fifteen minutes, Dawn is checked by a doctor, a diagnosis is made, she attempts to have it removed one way (which fails), then she has to official surgery and gets it removed.
From there, we see that after the surgery, Dawn is unable to speak or walk. So, the kids and Bink (they all like him now) take it as their responsibility to help her. She learns to speak and walk in roughly fifteen more minutes after going through physical therapy and reading flashcards. She's finally allowed to go home and Bink finally proposes to her. Some evening a few days after (or seconds, depending on who's time your on), Dawn is tucking in her daughter Lauren, who up until now wasn't the main focus whatsoever, and we zip up to five years later (1999). Lauren is now the only child still living at home. All of a sudden, Lauren becomes a more interesting character and a larger focal point. We're now about an hour an fifteen minutes into the movie.
After a brief subplot of Lauren's sister getting engaged and Lauren having an extremely weird discussion with her mother (which is thrown in there simply to show the relationship between them, I believe), we get to the Columbine story. After Lauren is dropped off at her school, a young man is wearing a Columbine jacket, which is the first we hear about what school officially she attends. A commercial break occurs with police sirens in the fade out. Once we understand what is going on, Dawn rushes home to watch the news stories in bewilderment (these are real news casts from the event as well). The family gathers around and victims advocates come to the house to get information on her daughter. They announce her daughter is a victim on TV the next day and make it official. This all happens in ten minutes. We spend no time worrying for her daughter or seeing the growing panic in the household because we're running out of time. The film ends with the family trying to get back on their feet and Dawn becoming a public speaker on gun control. She ends by going to visit Lauren's grave (which also looks exactly like the real Lauren Townsend's grave up close, so I think it probably is, but the crane shot doesn't look like the real cemetery). The film is dedicated to the lives lost at Columbine even though we barely spend any time thinking about it and we don't even seem to care about Lauren until the film is more than half over.
I thought the story was just a jumble of events. They didn't follow any distinct direction except the "Let's just throw in one bad thing after another to show how this woman can overcome it all." The character development just wasn't there. I've studied the real Dawn Anna and her daughter, Lauren Townsend, for some time now, and I can say that both were and are remarkable women. Debra Winger is also a terrific actress who is often underrated. I was just disappointed with how both the acting and the story didn't compliment each other. It seems like the movie was under such pressure to stuff everything into just two hours that we didn't have time to even discuss where the real father was, the marriage between Bink and Dawn, or Lauren being an extremely scholarly student (she was named Valedictorian posthumously at her graduation). If this film had been made into a two part series or even a mini series, I think it would have been much more effective and we could have gotten a lot more story-line. Unfortunately, I don't believe Debra Winger's talents were used to their fullest potential and I don't believe the story of Dawn Anna and her daughter was of remote interest the way it was told.