Is The Desperate Hour Based on a True Story?

Directed by Phillip Noyce, ‘The Desperate Hour’ is an immersive thriller film that tells a one-woman story about a mother whose son is trapped in an active school shooting. Following Naomi Watts’ character, Amy Carr, the film depicts a widowed mother stranded in the woods on her run when she gets news of a violent incident at her teenage son Noah’s school, Lakewood High. With no means to arrive at the location, Amy tries to get a better hold of the situation by contacting various individuals on her phone while making her way to save her son.

The film features Amy’s distraught journey as she falls deeper into desperation, unable to ensure her son’s safety. Since the film follows a singular narrative, conversations between Amy and different faceless characters over the phone make up the film’s bulk. By closely following Amy’s story almost in real time, the film is able to equip a realistic lens. Due to the same, paired with the film’s socially relevant storyline, viewers are bound to wonder if the film has a connection to reality. Let’s find out!

Is The Desperate Hour a True Story?

No, ‘The Desperate Hour’ is not based on a true story. Although the film’s focus on a school shooting infuses its storyline with realism and is clearly inspired by the recent grueling tragedies across the nation, the story itself has no firm relation to any real-life events or people. Instead, the film is a work of fiction penned by Chris Sparling and brought to life by Director Phillip Noyce and lead actress Naomi Watts.

At the time of the film’s release in 2021, the audience saw the release of several other stories like ‘The Fallout‘ and ‘Mass’ that centered around similar subject matter. All these movies, including ‘The Desperate Hour,’ provide a reflection of real-world issues. According to reports, thirty-five school shootings took place in 2021. Therefore, movies like ‘The Desperate Hour’ are inherently connected to reality and strive to start significant conversations.

This film brings a unique perspective into this conversation by employing a frantic mother at its narrative center. Throughout the film, the focus is on Amy’s reaction as a mother who’s unable to help her son in any tangible way. The film’s exclusive focus on Amy’s character and agency simultaneously informs the story’s most powerful and weakest aspects.

Since Amy’s decisions and reckless desperation drives the film’s narrative, numerous people with similar experiences might find increased relatability within Amy’s storyline. However, at the same time, Amy’s desperation to gain access to developing information and insistence on intervening in the incident creates a disconnect away from the film’s actual conflict. Still, despite Amy’s lack of basis in reality, the film’s depiction of her unending distress and herculean effort to reach her child paints a realistic image of the trauma real-life parents must go through.

In fact, as a parent of a teenager, Director Noyce found an inevitable connection with Amy’s character and her turmoil. While discussing his film in an interview with Cinema Daily US, the filmmaker shared what he hopes to achieve with this film. “I hope this adds a little to our awareness that ‘The Desperate Hour’ is not a foregone conclusion. We don’t have to endure it. There are ways of avoiding it,” said Noyce. “One movie like this cannot change hundreds of years of American history. But maybe it will contribute to the debate.”

Likewise, actress Watts’ shared similar sentiments in a conversation with HeyUGuys while discussing what drew her to the script. After reading the script, Watts found the story’s confrontation of a disturbing nationwide reality compelling.

“This is a story that is playing itself out over and over again in the world, and I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a parent who— you know, this is the unimaginable nightmare and hopefully, you know, connect with the hearts and minds of others. And I just felt it was a very compelling piece of reality to be a part of,” said Watts. As such, although the film is fictitious, it certainly draws a parallel to real life.

Read More: Is The Desperate Hour on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, or Prime?