Speak (film)

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Speak film.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Jessica Sharzer
Produced by Fred Berner
Matthew Myers
Annie Young Frisbie
Jessica Sharzer
Screenplay by Jessica Sharzer
Annie Young Frisbie
Based on Novel:
Laurie Halse Anderson
Starring Kristen Stewart
Michael Angarano
Robert John Burke
Eric Lively
Elizabeth Perkins
D. B. Sweeney
Steve Zahn
Music by Christopher Libertino
Cinematography Andrij Parekh
Edited by Mark Bennett
Billy Hopkins
Distributed by Showtime Networks Inc.
Release dates
  • January 20, 2004 (2004-01-20)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Speak is a 2004 American independent drama based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson. It stars Kristen Stewart as Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who practically stops talking after being raped by a senior student. The film is told through Melinda's eyes and is wrought with her sardonic humor and blunt honesty. It was broadcast on Showtime and Lifetime in 2005 after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004.[1]


15-year-old Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart) starts out her freshman year in high school and struggles on the first day. She doesn't have any friends to hang out with and appears awkward and uncomfortable when speaking to others. Throughout the day, she is made fun of by several students, repeatedly called a "squealer". A series of flashbacks reveal that she called the police at a house party during the previous summer. Her real reason for calling 9-1-1 was that she was raped at the party by a senior student, Andy Evans (Eric Lively), but while on the phone, she was unable to talk to the police about what happened, and when the police arrived, she did not report the rape and went home instead. The party was crashed, causing mayhem and everyone to flee from the police.

When her parents see her report card, they prompt her to see Mr. Neck (Robert John Burke), who tells her to write an essay on any history topic. After refusing to read her paper aloud to her class, she gets sent to the office of the school principal. Melinda is nice to a new student named Heather Billings (Allison Siko), who claims to be Melinda's "friend", but Heather soon abandons Melinda when the chance for social advancement arises. The only other student with whom Melinda has a positive experience is her lab partner, Dave Petrakis (Michael Angarano), who has successfully managed to avoid affiliating himself with a clique.

As the year progresses, Melinda begins a painfully slow recapture of her confidence, with some help from Dave and her art teacher, Mr. Freeman (Steve Zahn). Her former best friend, Rachel Bruin (Hallee Hirsh), starts dating Andy, and as the only other person who knows about the event, Melinda fears that Rachel will suffer the same fate. Melinda finds Rachel at the library and tells her the truth about what happened at the party by writing it on paper. At first, Rachel refuses to believe her, thinking that Melinda is lying out of jealousy, and calls her "sick", but comes to realize the truth by confronting Andy. After Rachel begins to tell other people what happened, Andy threatens and begins to attack Melinda. He corners her in the art room and tries to force her to tell everybody at school that the incident is false, and she struggles to get free, eventually overpowering him. They are found by one of her old friends and a group of girls who help Melinda and trap Andy. Mr. Neck sees Melinda walking away from the scene and asks what was going on, but Melinda doesn't respond.

On the way back from the hospital after being treated for her injuries, Melinda rolls down the window of the car, breathing in deeply. She finally finds the strength to tell her mother the truth about what happened at the party. Although it is clear that Melinda will still need time to fully recover from her ordeals, this is a significant and empowering event in her life, as she finally finds the courage to speak.



Producer and screenwriter Annie Young Frisbie read the novel and successfully made a bid to get the rights to a film version. Production took place in Columbus, Ohio because a production partner, Matthew Myers, was relocating there with his wife.

Film production took only 21 days in August 2003. Flooding during an especially heavy summer rain caused filming to be temporarily postponed and during that time author Laurie Halse Anderson visited the set with her daughter. Anderson herself cameos in the film as the lunch lady who gives Melinda the mashed potatoes.

The school scenes for the movie were shot at Eastmoor Academy on the east side of Columbus.


Although New York Times reviewer Neil Genzlinger praised the work of Stewart and Steve Zahn, he concluded that, overall, the cast was populated with "dismaying caricature[s], so much so that it costs the movie some credibility," and that the film "comes nowhere near capturing the wise, subtle tone of the book."[2]

Differences from the novel[edit]

  • In the novel, Melinda meets Heather when Heather finds a seat in the auditorium. In the film, they meet on the bus. The auditorium scène is cut altogether.
  • In the novel, Melinda is raped in the woods behind the location of the party. In the film, she is raped in Andy's car.
  • In the novel, Melinda writes on the bathroom stall, "Guys to stay away from: Andy Evans". She returns later to find that other people have added incidents of victimization. This was cut altogether.
  • At the end of the novel, Melinda speaks to Mr. Freeman about being violated. In the movie, she tells everything to her mother in the car.
  • In the novel, Rachel breaks up with Andy at the prom. In the movie, she breaks up with him in his car.
  • In the novel, Melinda receives extra credit after biting into an apple during her science class. In the film, however, she does not.
  • In the novel, Mr. Neck gives the extra credit assignment as an option for the whole class. In the film, Mr. Neck gives the assignment to Melinda only.
  • In the novel, there is a scène in which Andy is seen in the doughnut shop's parking lot and he confronts Melinda. In the movie, this scène is cut out.
  • In the novel, there is a scène in which the dead tree branches are cut and a talk that reflects how Melinda is changing. In the film, the part is acknowledged but the conversation is cut.
  • In the novel, Melinda writes "exchange students are ruining our country" in her English journal. In the movie, she writes this on a stall in the girls' bathroom.
  • In the novel, during Mr. Neck's discussion about how America should've closed its borders in 1900, a girl from the Archery club suggests giving the country back to the Native Americans. In the movie, that suggestion is made by Heather.
  • At the end of the movie, Mr. Freeman resigns from Merryweather High-School. This doesn't happen in the book.
  • In the book, Melinda's father sells insurance. In the movie, he is unemployed and trying to find a job.
  • In the movie, Melinda shows Mr. Freeman the janitor's closet (which was her sanctuary during the year). This doesn't happen in the book.
  • In the novel, Ivy is a member of the Suffering Artists and the Thespians. In the movie, she is a member of the Goths and the Marthas.
  • In the novel, Melinda wears contact lenses. In the movie, she wears glasses.


  1. ^ http://history.sundance.org/films/3013/speak
  2. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (5 September 2005). "For One Teenager, the Party's Over". New York Times. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 

External links[edit]