Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes


Title: Speak
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
Date: September 2005
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes
UPC: 758445115925

Plot Summary: Melinda Sordino enters her freshmen year of high school shunned by her classmates who label her a “squealer” for calling the police to a house party over the summer.  The truth, which she can’t come to terms with, and hasn’t told anyone, is that she was raped at the party by a popular upperclassman.  Melinda spends the year as a selective mute, unable to share the truth about what happened, and unable to connect with her old friends or her parents, who are occupied with work (and her father’s unemployment) and are clueless about reaching out to their daughter.

Melinda finds refuge in her art class, where she is assigned to study the subject of trees in her projects through the year.  Although she doesn’t confide in her teacher, she uses her assignment as a form of expression, an outlet she desperately needs.  She also converts an unused janitor’s closet into a safe haven where she can retreat during breaks.  As the school year comes to an end, she finally finds the courage to speak out about her experience.

Critical Evaluation: This 2004 film, based on Laurie Halse Anderson’s 1999 novel of the same name, features a very young, pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart as the lead, who has such a remarkable performance that it’s hard to believe that she was only 13-years-old when she filmed this role.  The message of the film is very clear – both that it is important to speak out about these kinds of experiences (in addition to rape, the message can extend to abusive relationships and bullying), and also that it is difficult for victims to do so.  The film, directed by Jessica Sharzer, handles the heavy topic with care, revealing the truth about Melinda’s experience in an effective series of flashbacks, and also providing lighter moments (for instance, the Sordino family’s attempt at hastily defrosting their Thanksgiving turkey leads to her father absurdly trying to break it into pieces with an ax).  The original novel is considered an important contribution to the YA canon (it was named the School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year in 1999), and the film does it justice.

Annotation: Melinda Sordino’s enters her freshmen year of high school shunned by her classmates, who don’t understand that she called the cops on a house party over the summer because she was raped.

About the Director: Jessica Sharzer made her directorial feature debut with Speak, based on the acclaimed best-selling novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. The film premiered at Sundance in 2004 and was later simulcast on Lifetime and Showtime in an unprecedented network event. Speak was nominated for both a Writers Guild Award and a Directors Guild Award in 2005. Sharzer has written screenplays for Universal, Showtime, HBO Films, and Endgame Entertainment. In television, she wrote a one-hour drama pilot for FOX with Ashton Kutcher’s company Katalyst and a Nashville-set drama pilot for CBS. She has also directed Showtime’s acclaimed drama The L Word.

Currently, Ms. Sharzer is completing Timber, based on the true story of activists Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, for director Michael Apted. She is also attached to direct Cruddy, based on Lynda Barry’s cult novel, with Betty Thomas producing and Thomas Haden Church to star. Sharzer holds an MA in Russian Literature from Berkeley and an MFA in Film & Television from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Her thesis film The Wormhole won various grants and awards including the Student Academy Award in 2002.

Jessica Sharzer was awarded a Production grant at NYU in 2001 for The Wormhole. (Source)

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Issues

Curriculum Ties: Could be viewed in any course that has discussions about depression, rape, bullying, etc. (examples include health and psychology classes).

Discussion Ideas:
1) What made it so hard for Melinda to talk about what happened?
2) Did her family and friends have a responsibility to find out what was wrong?
3) If you were in a similar situation, would you talk about it?  What might be some reasons that you wouldn’t?
4) Think of examples of people that it would be safe to tell (for example – parents, teacher, guidance counselor, etc.)

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: rape, depression, bullying, alcohol

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the film and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the film from teens who have viewed it.

Selection: I read and loved the novel years ago, and was interested in viewing the movie version.


Speak at

“Speaking Out” – Laurie Halse Anderson on writing Speak (The ALAN Review)

Trailer for “Speak”:


April 26, 2010 - Posted by | Movies | ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] and doesn’t feel like she can talk about the experience with anyone, which was adapted into a 2004 film of the same […]

    Pingback by Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson « Caroline the Future Librarian | May 13, 2010 | Reply

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