'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' Review: True story of teen's assault
Lifetime's 'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' is based on the real story of Ashley Reeves who at 17 was brutally attacked and left for dead
'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' on Lifetime is based on the true story of 17-year-old Ashley Reeves (Anwen O’Driscoll) who was left for dead in the woods for 30 hours after being brutally attacked by a teacher Sam Shelton, with whom she was in a relationship of sorts. The film does an effective job of portraying how one bad choice, especially during the critical teenage years, can often end up affecting a person's entire life.
'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' is in the same vein as other true crime stories such as 'Gone Mom: The Disappearance of Jennifer Dulos' and 'Girl in the Basement' that Lifetime has brought to the screen.
Ashley's case unravels the disastrous circumstances that occur when she allows her guard to come down with a teacher and mentor. Ashley was lucky to be alive after being dumped in the woods, following an argument with Shelton. Ashley was brutally attacked by Shelton, who was also a proficient wrestler. He held Ashley in a chokehold and strangled her. He then went on to further strangle her with his belt and with his bare hands before leaving her in the woods where he ‘buried’ her with dirt and leaves. When the police found Ashley, she was gravely wounded, paralyzed and covered with insects. However, the fight was far from over. Following her brutal attack, Ashley had to learn to walk, talk and feed herself all over again. Added to this was the judgment she had to endure from the people in her hometown for an inappropriate relationship with a teacher.
O'Driscoll who plays Ashley is extremely convincing in her role as the teenager, who is frustrated and dejected at what her life has become. She often asks her mother whether she will be ever able to stand on her own again, literally and figuratively. We can often palpably feel the regret that she is consumed by, for allowing herself to get swayed by the smooth-talking Shelton, who pretended to be her well-wisher. Jennie Garth, who most 'Beverly Hills 90210' fans will remember as Kelly Taylor, is also extremely effective in her role as Ashley's mother Michelle Reeves. Michelle literally has to bring her daughter back to life, twice — in the hospital and in society as well. Garth plays Michelle believably as the exhaustion, worry and even the rage at her daughter not confiding in her about the relationship are written clearly all over her face.
The relationship between Ashley and her steady boyfriend also provides an interesting equation in the film. In spite of Ashley being swayed by Shelton, Ashley's first love chooses to stand by her side. They don't continue their relationship, but Ashley still has his support whether it is when she comes back from the hospital or in court. There is no clarity if this is how the relationship between Ashley and her boyfriend played out in real life, but after such a brutal attack we can only hope that was the case for the traumatized Ashley Reeves.
'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' serves as the ultimate cautionary tale, especially for parents of teenagers or teenagers themselves. For those who would like to proceed with caution, 'Left For Dead: The Ashley Reeves Story' premiered on Lifetime on Saturday, June 12, at 8/7c and was directed by Gloria Ui Young Kim from a script written by Christina Welsh.