I Am Elizabeth Smart (2017 Lifetime)

The real Elizabeth Smart narrates this movie, making a must (but difficult) watch.

I Am Elizabeth Smart (2017 Lifetime)

Cast:  Elizabeth SmartAlana BodenSkeet UlrichDeirdre Lovejoy 

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Synopsis (via Lifetime)

Police launch a high-profile investigation after a teenager (Alana Boden) is abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City.


The movie begins with the real Elizabeth Smart, who serves as a producer on the film, telling the viewer that they don’t know her side of the story as new reel clips flash on the screen.

Flash to 2002, the movie depicts 14-year-old Elizabeth waking up in the middle of the night to a man with a knife. He tells her that he will kill her family if she does not come with him. The man drags her through the woods and to his encampment on a mountain. A woman named Wanda prepares Elizabeth for a “wedding ritual.” (Which is a glorified rape.) It is brutal and horrifying to watch.

The real Elizabeth Smart recalls the rape from her perspective, and it is heartbreaking. 

The next morning, Elizabeth asks why he kidnapped her and recognizes him from her house. His name is Brian David Mitchell. He rapes her every single day, sometimes twice a day. He ties her up and—Spouts fanatic dogma at him. She renames herself, Ester. 

On day 3, Elizabeth goes along with it and starts to help with the cooking around camp. Wanda is threatened as the first wife but allows her to help. Elizabeth talks to get as much information about Wanda. (Wanda is just as EVIL as Brian David Mitchell.) They hear the search party looking for her and keep quiet. (A helicopter comes the next day they hide again.)

Weeks go by, and the abuse continues. Elizabeth thinks of her family to get through it. Wanda is jealous of Elizabeth after she stops resisting the continual rapes. It earns Elizabeth freedom from her shackles, but at what price.

The real Elizabeth Smart continues to narrate the film, and her insights and details are invaluable. There is no way of telling this story (or any story like it) without the surviving victim’s consent/input. She also clarifies that she never had Stockholm Syndrome and hated her captors every second in captivity. 

Elizabeth has a safety pin that she has buried near her tent. When Brian David Mitchell goes to town to panhandle, she attempts to pick her locks. He comes back and gleefully shows her the missing person flyers. Then he forces her to drink wine and get drunk. 

Brian David Mitchell and Wanda get inebriated regularly, and Elizabeth uses it as an opportunity to plot her escape. As long as she continues to abide by his rules, she can get away eventually. 

The three of them go into town—the woman dressed in a hijab like covering—Elizabeth fantasizes of screaming out for help, but Brian David Mitchell reminds her that he will kill her family. He takes them to a party, and the women at the party are concerned for Elizabeth. They also go to a library and raise eyebrows as well. Detectives are called, but Brian David Mitchell uses his fake religion and exploits religious freedom evade capture. They move to San Diago after 102 Days.

A hiker comes upon the camp and calls out, but Elizabeth remains silent to save his life and her own. They move deeper into the mountains—184 days in captivity. 

Brian David Mitchelle leaves Wanda and Elizabeth alone for seven days. Always struggling to find water, Elizabeth takes rain in California as a miracle. It saves them from death by dehydration. 

Elizabeth manipulates him to take her back to Utah after 273 days. They hitchhike back with Elizabeth in a wig and sunglasses. While in a store, Elizabeth sees searching a wall of missing children and doesn’t see herself. All hope is lost until the police pull up and ask Elizabeth her name. Overwhelmed, she manages to confirm “I am Elizabeth Smart.” She is reunited with her family at the police station. This sequence is very well done.

A media circus follows her and her family as she returns home. Brian David Michelle is serving two life sentences in prison, and Wanda received 15 years. 

Side Note

Minority Report: Hiker, Police Office, Nurse, 

More information on Elizabeth Smart’s activism here.

Very effective movie. Staying at the camp the whole time and not giving the audience a break to see the police or family looking for her was the right choice. It helps emphasize the duration of Elizabeth Smart’s abuse and captivity. 

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Read about the real-life story here. 

*Photo Credit: © 2017 Lifetime

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