This film focuses on seven individuals who, initially at least, ran away from their Amish groups. Shunning (social rejection of a sinful individual until (s)he repents) is supposed to follow when a member runs away, but the film to me is more about the act of running away, its rationale and repercussions. Two perspectives then are given: that of the Amish family and that of the departed child. Since the Amish do not permit filmed interviews, we get the perspective of the Amish family from voices throughout the narrative. The recurring family themes are obedience, submission, rules, knowing your place, and trusting the wisdom of the group. There are a few glimpses of a family's pain--a father talking about a "heavy heart" and a mother noting she may have made mistakes--but emotions are generally suppressed. I can't say that the film gives much insight into the "pain that the family feels when a loved one breaks away," as the editorial review claims. But such pain can be inferred.
From the perspective of the runaways, we do get some clearer depiction of emotions--the loss of close-knit families, childhood memories, a few letters saved from parents. While very few of them regret their decision to leave, all have muted, mournful moments when they discuss what has been left behind.
I think the documentary actually overdoes the mournful tone. The background music, while pensive in tone, can seem like an ongoing dirge. Yes, there are joyful moments in the film--a young woman in awe of her new picture ID, a charity dinner for an Amish scholarship fund, a young man buying his first car and then quietly acknowledging that living away from Amish society is actually "awesome." One couple has a basement apartment for Amish young people trying to adjust to a larger world. But the father also speaks of his struggle to find a spiritual anchor in the larger world (he returned seven times before finally leaving), an anchor not found in traditions or rules. This same individual recounts his own reconciliation with his father 25 years after leaving the Amish community.
The documentary has chosen seven individuals with different experiences. One is still living in a quasi-Amish lifestyle. Another was never shunned by her family after leaving. Two are older individuals who now provide support for Amish who have left the community. At the end, one of the individuals is returning; it is not clear for how long, but she has a suitcase in hand.
Certainly an excellent documentary, with emotion that is low-key but profound; we can read in faces what is not expressed audibly. However, I do find the sense of loss too sustained and unvaried a tone.