By Dan Clendenin

The Family I Had (2017)

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Spoiler Alert! To say that this movie is a “family crime documentary” doesn’t begin to capture the multi-generational layers and complexities of the story’s human pain and suffering. I watched the movie on Amazon Prime after seeing that it had debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and then aired on the television network Investigation Discovery. The basic facts about the story are not in dispute, but how to make any sense of the story, and if that is even possible, is another thing. On February 4, 2007, a thirteen-year-old boy named Paris Bennett murdered his four-year-old sister Ella by stabbing her seventeen times with a kitchen knife. He is now serving a 40-year sentence in prison. How and why could something like this happen? Can one assign blame? Offer forgiveness? Hope for rehabilitation? How can Paris’s mother, Charity, continue to love her son without betraying the memory of her daughter? Is Paris a sociopath? What about the family history of mental illness, absentee fathers, crime, drug abuse, and a wealthy grandmother who was married seven times? Is it possible for any good to come from this evil? There is no closure in this movie, no easy answers, just many unanswerable questions and a horrifying amount of pain. My takeaway was a call to compassion for our human condition.

Dan Clendenin: dan@journeywithjesus.net

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