Unbeknownst to many "Twilight" fans, Kristen Stewart did have a life in acting before starring in the movie empire built on Stephenie Meyer's novels. "Speak," released in 2004, is based on Laurie Halse Anderson's 1999 novel of the same name. In the movie, Stewart plays Melinda Sordino, the novel's main character, who keeps quiet about a horrible secret until she has no choice but to speak. This dark tale touches upon a difficult subject, but viewers will appreciate the story and its satisfying conclusion.
The movie begins with Melinda sitting in her bedroom on the morning of her first day at Merryweather High School, drawing stitches over her mouth to symbolize her silence. In the summer before school, Melinda attended a party during which something terrible happened. She called 911 from the party, but she was too shocked to speak into the phone and report the incident. Instead she kept quiet, and the police broke up the party for underage drinking. Everyone found out that Melinda was the one who called the police, and they call her "squealer." She lost her best friend, Rachel Bruin, and she feels extremely alone.
As the movie progresses, there is obvious tension between Melinda and an older student, Andy Evans. Viewers learn a little bit at a time about the party through Melinda's flashbacks. However, it is not until Melinda sees Rachel and Andy hugging and kissing during a school pep rally that we finally learn what it is that Melinda cannot speak about: rape. Andy raped Melinda at the party during the summer, which is why she called police. The rape stunned her into silence. She will not speak of the event to anyone, and when she does talk to people, it is without the confidence and self-worth she once had.
Throughout her freshman year of high school, only Melinda's art teacher, Mr. Freeman, recognizes the pain she holds close. Though she does not tell Freeman about the rape, Melinda finds solace in his relaxed, caring attitude. Her artistic side also offers a slight breakthrough with her parents, when they give her a drawing pad and pastels for Christmas after noticing that she had been drawing. This small action shows Melinda that her parents do notice her, but she remains silent about the summer party.
Melinda develops a crush on fellow student Dave Petrakis. Dave, who is not afraid to stand up for himself, advises Melinda that if she wants people to respect her, she will have to speak up for what she believes. This advice prompts Melinda to skip school for a "mental health day." She looks around a public bus for somebody to whom she can blurt out her feelings. She does not tell anyone, but she finally admits to herself that the rape happened and there is no way she can erase it. With that revelation, she begins changing. She appears more confident and is not afraid to tell people "No."
Melinda revisits the place where she was raped and decides that she should tell Rachel what happened, in hopes that Rachel will leave Andy. When Melinda finally gathers the courage to tell Rachel that Andy raped her at the party, Rachel calls her a liar, believing that Melinda is just jealous of her new love and happiness. Nonetheless, when Rachel rides to school with Andy the next day, she asks him about Melinda. Andy's angry, offensive response makes Rachel believe that maybe something really did happen between him and Melinda.
Melinda stays after school on the last day to see Freeman, only to find that he will not returning to school in the fall. After their conversation, Melinda begins to clean up the abandoned janitor's closet that she had turned into her personal art studio. As she is taking down her drawings, Andy enters, angry that Melinda told Rachel about the rape. He attacks her, but the noise from the fight alerts a group of female athletes who break into the closet and stop the attack. Everyone now knows that Andy raped Melinda, and when she leaves the building she is finally able to speak. The movie ends with Melinda telling her mother the details of that night.
- IMDb: Speak (2004)
- "Speak"; Jessica Sharzer, director; 2004
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images