Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking (1995)

Plot summary

Matthew, played by Sean Penn, is a convicted rapist/murderer who is counselled by a nun named Sister Helen, played by Susan Sarandon.

Sister Helen is determined to reach Matthew on an humanistic level to help him to understand himself and his actions and truly repent them before he is executed.

She manages to break through his uneducated and ignorant exterior and leads him to salvation in the nick of time.

He is executed while Sister Helen stands strong to give him comfort; the victims' parents' grief is somewhat eased, but everyone learns from the experience of the poisonous power of hate.

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Mistakes

Almost at the end of the film, Poncelet is marched to the death chamber, with Prejean's hand on his shoulder. They are led past an open door - which leads to the viewing room, where the witnesses will congregate. Some of them are already in the room. This is nonsense - it is inviting a bereaved relative to attack the condemned man. In fact the corridor to the death chamber goes nowhere near the witnesses' area, and Prejean would have had to have been escorted back through two guarded doors to reach it.

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Trivia

The movie is loosely based on Sister Prejean's experiences with two real death row inmates, Robert Lee Willie and Elmo Patrick Sonnier. Both men were electrocuted. In the movie, however, Sean Penn's fictional character was killed by lethal injection--because the image of a man strapped down to be injected allows for all that Christ symbolism.

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