Left for Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story (2021 Lifetime)

Cast:  Jennie Garth, Anwen O’Driscoll, Sebastien Roberts, James Gallanders

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Synopsis (via Lifetime)

In 2006, 17-year-old Ashley Reeves (Anwen O’Driscoll) is left for dead in the woods following a brutal attack. (2021)

Thoughts

Ashley Reeves lays in the middle of the woods, covered in leaves. She is (as the title suggests) left for dead. A search party finds her barely alive 30 hours later. Ashley has been severely attacked and strangled within an inch of her life. The doctors aren’t hopeful for recovery due to the lack of oxygen to the brain. 

Two months earlier, Ashley appears to live the teenage dream. She has a handsome boyfriend named Danny and enjoys family dinners full of love and laughter. Danny even proposes with a cheap “promise” ring that isn’t an engagement ring. Ashley is confused, and so am I. She isn’t sure that she wants to spend her life with Danny, because she is only 17. 

Back in the present day, Ashley’s parents, Michelle and Mike, are by their daughter’s side. The doctor tells them that he isn’t sure if Ashley will ever come out of her coma. Michelle doesn’t accept that and finds ways to communicate with her daughter despite the doctors negging. (Maybe the worst doctor in a Lifetime movie, with no bedside manner. 

Ashley, Danny, and her friend, Chloe, run into an old coach named Sam. He is handsome and charming. Sam invites the three to play basketball and shamelessly flirts with Ashley in front of her boyfriend. The basketball games continue, even if it is just Sam and Ashley playing one on one. 

Back at the hospital, Ashley works with a physical therapist and can only communicate by blinking. She has no memory of how she was injured but experiences flashes. Mia, A fantastic physical therapist, helps Ashley communicate via a letter board. Ashley has to relearn how to do everything from swallowing to walking.

Michelle talks with her daughter about what happened when she disappeared. She called Coach Sam, who was on a date, hours after he attacked Ashley and left her to die in the wood. Ashley tells her mom that her relationship with Sam was just a friendship. Michelle takes Sam to court, and he pleads not guilty, stating that it was all an “accident.” Danny finds out about Sam and Ashley’s affair, and he blames himself for driving Ashley away. (Danny is a saint!) She breaks up with him.

Detectives question Ashley because Sam is trying to get his confession thrown out for consideration in the case. He begs Ashley to try and remember, but it only causes horrific nightmares.

Ashley starts to remember, and we see in flashbacks that Sam manipulated Ashley and groomed her to keep the relationship a secret. 

In court, Sam is released on bail and sentenced to house arrest. He is cocky AF, and I’m not buying the “beloved member of the community BS.” When Sam gets home, he texts and calls other girls in his back pocket. (Jenna girl, you better watch out.)

Michelle cries to her friend Nancy about the stress of the trial and watching her daughter struggle. The pressure gets to Michelle, and she asks Ashley why she didn’t tell her about sleeping with Sam. Ashley explains that she made a mistake and is paying for that Mistake. Wow. Wow. 

Ashley hears girls talking about her in the hospital and sees her peers trashing her online. The two months in the hospital have been hard on her social life. Even her friend Chloe thinks, “Sam is a great guy.” and blames Ashley for sleeping with the teacher.

Flashbacks of her attack fuel Ashley to work even harder to regain her capabilities again. She walks on the treadmill and continues to work on her memory. She asks detectives to show her photos of her at the crime scene to jog her memory.

The odds are stacked against Ashley because people in the town side with Sam. The school principal tells Michelle that Sam comes from a good family, and he doesn’t believe Sam is responsible for the attack. Even Nancy tells Michelle to “move on.” (What the hell?!) 

The trial moves forward, and Ashley demands to testify in front of her attacker. She wants to clear her name and take Sam down. Good for her. 

We flashback and learn that Sam lured her to his house, oh wait, his mother’s house, and coerced her into sleeping with him. Ashley was confused and vulnerable; he took advantage of that.

Sam attempts to commit suicide in a play for sympathy from the jury. Ashley doesn’t want anyone to think he is a victim because SHE is the victim. 

Ashley’s memory comes back during physical therapy. When Sam finds out, he takes a plea deal for 20 years in prison. (He is up for parole soon and should definitely be locked up for life.) 

On her day in court, Ashley walks herself in front of the judge and gives an emotional recollection of the attack. While she speaks, the movie depicts what happened, and it is intense. Ashley is shown being dragged from the car by Sam and strangled until she passes out. Sam tries to wake her up, and when she doesn’t, he drives her to a park and carried her deep into the woods. Sam strangled her even more with a belt until the belt snapped. He left her for dead and buried her with leaves and dirt. Then he went out dancing on a date. She finishes her speech by pointing out the double standard women face. Women are blamed for their attacks instead of their attackers.

Everyone claps as Ashley walks out of court with her family by her side in slow motion.

Side Note

Minority Report: Doctor, Mia, Paramedic, Jacob,

While I appreciate Lifetime bringing these stories to a broader audience, I wish they wouldn’t continue to tell stories with partial flashbacks. It would be more impactful to see the events in chronological order. 

Read about the actual case here. (Sam Shelton is a POS.) 

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Overall rating

🔪🔪🔪 (3 Knives)

🍷🍷🍷 (3 glasses of wine required.)

*Photo Credit: © 2021 Lifetime® | A+E Networks®

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