Jury Coordination and Notes

Marshall – 1940s Legal thriller Based on a True Story about Thurgood Marshall

October 19th, 2017

Young Thurgood Marshall faces one of his greatest challenges while working as a lawyer for the NAACP. Marshall travels to conservative Connecticut when wealthy socialite Eleanor Strubing accuses black chauffeur Joseph Spell of sexual assault and attempted murder. He soon teams up with Sam Friedman, a local Jewish lawyer who’s never handled a criminal case. Together, the two men build a defense while contending with racist and anti-Semitic views from those who deem Spell to be guilty. KIDS FIRST! Reviewer Juanita L. comments, “For me, this film brought back my experience as a young person who lived in Virginia and experienced the separate but equal in my education.”  See her full review below.

Marshall
By Juanita L., KIDS FIRST!  Adult Juror

I enjoyed watching and experiencing Marshall.  The 1940s legal thriller is the story about a dozen years before young Thurgood Marshall challenged segregation’s separate but equal premise in Brown v. Board of Education.  For me, this film brought back my experience as a young person who lived in Virginia and experienced the separate but equal in my education.

Chadwick Boseman captures the essence of Thurgood Marshall’s spirit. He brings the confidence, intelligence, cockiness as well as the charm and humor of Thurgood. It is an exciting performance from Hollywood’s go-to-guy for playing important Black Americans.

There are many parts that I enjoyed. When Marshall meets Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), we see his cockiness from the moment he steps off the train in Bridgeport, CT., ordering his white co-counsel, Sam Friedman, to carry his bags. Another enjoyable scene is the Harlem night club with Marshall and his friends, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

The cinematography is outstanding. One scene when Marshall and Friedman are in the men’s room, it looks as if they are in the mirror together, however you can see them individually.  With its excellent role models and strong messages about courage, teamwork and tolerance, this film is a great movie for teens and families. You can expect to see fist fights and beatings, with bloody wounds and bruises. There’s also a flashback to a suggested rape, with violent acts against a woman. There is a mild sex scene which includes kissing, however there is no nudity. Language includes several uses of the “N” word as well as “kike.” Characters drink alcohol and there is background smoking.

This film celebrates standing up and courageously risking your own safety to fight against popular opinion and against difficult odds.  The movie is about tolerance in a way that’s more matter-of-fact than self-righteous. Characters work together in an effective way.

I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 as well as adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Marshall opens Friday, October 13, 2017 in theaters across the country. Be entertained while learning about American history and a very powerful and influential man.

I Called Him Morgan – Unforgettable and Haunting Documentary

October 16th, 2017

An exploration of the relationship between jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen, who was implicated in his murder in 1972. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Terry S. comments, “This haunting documentary about the life of a great jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is one I will not soon forget. ” See her full review below.

I Called Him Morgan
By Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Juror

This haunting documentary about the life of a great jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is one I will not soon forget. Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin weaves the tale of their lives and their relationship through interviews with his friends and fellow musicians including saxophonist Wayne Shorter. He caps it off with an interview with Helen a month before her death in 1996.  Through extraordinary black and white archival photographs, rare TV performances and an amazing soundtrack of Lee’s music, we are transported to the NYC jazz scene from the 50s to the 70s.

As a music aficionado, I was aware of jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey, but not of Lee Morgan.  The footage of his trumpet playing with these masters really drew me in.  As one friend said in the film, “Lee really knew how to tell a story musically.”  His was an exceptional talent as a young teenager of 17.

However, his addiction to heroin took him out and it wasn’t until he met Helen, that he got back on his feet to play. Through her care, inspiration and love, she managed his career and uplifted him back to compose and play music and eventually form his own band, The Lee Morgan Quartet.

Lee had years of success playing not only clubs in the East but also on the West Coast.  Some of my favorite parts of the documentary include footage on a TV show called “Soul”, where he dedicates a piece to the activist Angela Davis entitled “Angela”, and another TV show hosted by Steve Allen, a talk show host popular at the time. The other favorite part was with the jazz mobile workshop where he worked with young people on musical arrangements and gave them a chance to play and learn from him.  

The twist and turns of Lee and Helen’s life together end tragically when Lee plays at a popular club called Slugs, down in the East Village of NYC.  On a snowy night in February 1972, his life is cut short at the young age of 33 by the woman who had brought him back to life. Following an altercation between sets, Morgan’s common law wife Helen Moore, shot him.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 13 to 18 as well as adult jazz lovers.  You can catch I Called Him Morgan on DVD and Blu-ray beginning October 31, 2017.

 

 

Battle of the Sexes – A Doll’s House Re-visited, Almost

October 6th, 2017

In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men’s-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the BATTLE OF THE SEXES and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed. And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue). Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “The directing is swift, well paced and well filmed. Kudos to the cinematographer who really has a wonderful grasp on stillness to promote an essential moment and exerts great uses of soft and hard focus to portray dramatic moments and internalize character feelings.” See his full review below.

Battle of the Sexes
Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

The themes presented in this film are still relevant and have merit. With that said, I want to add that ever since Ibsen wrote “A Doll’s House,” it’s very rare to get a film (or play for that matter) that is charged with the theme of gender equality and presents it in a way that truly resonates. What do I mean? In films that aim to give a message or present an issues, such as when the writer wants to say something about the relevant society, more often than not, the writer portrays those characters in simple categorizations of good and bad. That may work in a superhero film, but in a piece of realism, where character development and relationships are key elements to the storytelling, simple good and bad just won’t do. That’s my issue with this film. The screenplay simplifies a few integral characters too much, in favor of hoisting up its protagonist.

To get this out of the way, the performances are fantastic. Emma Stone and Steve Carell lead the cast well, and the cast doesn’t have a weak link in it. In particular, a lot of credit has to be given to Steve Carell. He took a character that was underwritten and perhaps even misrepresented and makes him sympathetic and someone to root for. Andrea Riseborough also delivers a very affecting performance and really gives us some great scene work with Emma Stone.

The directing is swift, well paced and well filmed. Kudos to the cinematographer who really has a wonderful grasp on stillness to promote an essential moment and exerts great uses of soft and hard focus to portray dramatic moments and internalize character feelings. The editing also deserves a shout out for some wonderful pacing and really effectively switching between the grainy, 70s like cinematography and more clear cinematography.

Now, back to the screenplay. What made and still makes “A Doll’s House” the ultimate gender-equality script is that every character can be sympathized with. We learn more about the human condition and evils of society, rather than placing blame and anger on individual groups. There are only two men that can be rooted for without hesitation and that’s our protagonist’s husband and father. Every other guy is completely unlikable and has no arc, and Steve Carell’s character can be questioned. Carell’s character, who is a vital part of this story, isn’t written very well or thoroughly. It’s always hard to have two protagonists in a film, especially at a reasonable and well paced time. Carell’s character is both an antagonist and protagonist or, at least attempts to be so. Carell’s character opposes Emma Stone’s. It’s a man versus women ordeal and their tennis match is the crisis and climax of the film. But, here’s the issue. Carell’s character is NOT the antagonist. It’s society! So why is Carell’s character’s standing within the realm of the film so questionable? Why doesn’t he get his own arc? Every major character in “A Doll’s House” takes a journey. That’s what makes us empathize with them and come away disliking their society, and not the products of that society. The same would work with this film. But instead, there is a co-protagonist / antagonist that is not written for people to care about or even empathize with. He gets no arc, no change. He’s unaffected. He may as well have been a smaller part.

Why is this an issue? Because Emma Stone’s character is a catalyst. She’s the driving force and vehicle used within the film to represent the affects of an unjust era and to showcase the positive effects that a change in this society would have. Unfortunately, because Carell’s character and the real antagonists (the sexists who sit atop the societal ladder) don’t change, because we only see them as unlikable, this story turns into something simple and ultimately unfulfilling. Stone’s character merely wins the battle within the film and we come away knowing that and are momentarily happy. However, that soon goes away, which makes this entertaining dramedy perhaps a little forgettable. Had the writing been more substantial and caring to all its characters, and forgiving to all its characters and condemned society instead, we’d come away with a more profound understanding of where issues lie and are issued from. That’s a memorable film. I suppose the cinematic world is still chasing Ibsen.

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars for its entertainment value and performances and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It is playing in theaters now so go check it out.

 

 

Rebel in the Rye – Insightful look at this author filled with conflicts

September 18th, 2017

I enjoyed watching the drama/biography Rebel in the Rye, directed by Danny Small which examines the life of J.D. Salinger, best known for his novel, Catcher in the Rye. This book was very controversial when it first came out and, although I didn’t read it at the time, this film has inspired me to do so. More on that is yet to come!

The film shows Salinger’s determination, arrogance, humor and underlying inspiration. J.D. Salinger not only has inner conflicts, but he has a major conflict with his dad Sol Salinger (Victor Garber). This film stirred my curiosity so much that I downloaded the book Catcher in the Rye into my audible library. The film also inspired me to seriously begin writing a book.

In the film, we see a young, smart-mouth J.D. Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) as he experiences the horrors of World War II. The combat scenes are not graphically displayed, but Salinger experiences many people killed, including a good friend. He also sees a concentration camp and he is a victim of a mugging.

Strong characters include Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey), as Jerry’s tough mentor. You can see that he really believes in Salinger and pushes him to “find his voice.” Another character who stands out is Hope Davis as Salinger’s mother. The scene when she receives a copy of his novel is very moving. One of the funniest moments in the film comes when Salinger asked Little, Brown and Company to not send him any reviews of his book. In classic comedic fashion, the very next scene shows Salinger seen reading the reviews at home. I enjoyed seeing the secluded place where Salinger pursued his writing. It is very lovely and peaceful.

You should know that there are scenes of drinking, partying and smoking (common during this era), mild profanity and mild sensuality. I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 as well as adults. I give it an enthusiastic 5 out 5 Stars. I plan to see it again.  This film comes out on September 15, 2017 so be sure to check it out.

Reviewed by Juanita S.L, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

The Boss Baby

August 1st, 2017

Babies, Puppies, Children, Humor, and Villains all have one thing in common – they all make a terrific film! The animation is colorful and has lots of details. The storyline is cute, silly, original and fun for the whole family.

In the story, Tim wants all of his parents’ love for himself because he was an only child for so long and he is new to the idea of sharing love with his new baby brother. I can relate, since my sister was not thrilled about my arrival. It took her a while to adjust to sharing our parents. Now we are best friends forever. This leads to the lesson that there is enough love for everyone and we can always share. The issues of feeling like you are being replaced and not sharing love with others are two major lessons every brother or sister learns at some point in their life. These are huge and valuable lessons to learn when you are young or about ready to have a new sibling themselves. Plus, a brother or sister means you have a best friend for life.

Each actor is very unique with individual personalities and quirks. Tim (Miles Bakshi) is my favorite character for he reminds me of many people that I know. His transformation warmed my heart and made me all giddy inside. Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) is the Baby that you want in charge. I love the way that he is so commanding yet kind and silly whenever you talk to him. He is the man with a plan. He knows what to do when you are in trouble and has an adorable little hand to help you on your journey. Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi) is the evil mastermind that you call when you want something that is adorable to the eye, but when you see it up close his plan is just down right diabolical. Dad (Jimmy Kimmel) and Mom (Lisa Kudrow) are the perfect parents when it comes to sharing love with two adorable young men.

The animation is very bold and detailed. I love how each and every detail is addressed in the animation. The animation keeps you interested since there is so much to see and so little time. My favorite scene is was when Tim and The Boss Baby pretend to be pirates and come up with fun pirate sayings and acting as silly kids. I love this moment because there is so much joy and excitement to it. I wanted to jump into the screen and get into the action myself. When Tim teaches Boss Baby how to be a pirate, I laughed and found that I was learning how to act like a pirate too. The way that Tim and Boss Baby make a team of scaly wags is perfect. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Boss Baby has many references to films and people that I adore that made me laugh and make the movie relatable to a broad audience. They touch on Mary Poppins, Evil Knievel (I know about him from my Grandfather as they were neighbors and grew up in Butte, Montana together), Pirates of the Caribbean and a bit of Star Wars.

I recommend this film for ages 6 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 baby giggling stars. The Boss Baby comes out on DVD July 25, 2017 so, go check it out. By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Camp Cool Kids – Perfect Summer Family Movie

July 12th, 2017

Camp Cool Kids
By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Camp Cool Kids is a perfect movie for the whole family! Summer is the best time of the year for kids. We are out of school and the best kids’ movies play. I love that while I watched Camp Cool Kids, I came up with quite a few ideas on what to do for entertainment this summer. I can go outside and have fun with my family and friends. This is one of the many fun, eye-catching things that makes Camp Cool Kids so enjoyable.

I love that it includes all different kinds of sports such as swimming, rock climbing, paintball and archery. Every sport has its own scene and that is something that I really enjoyed. I was able to get a glimpse of each sport and see how they are played at summer camp. I have to say that my favorite scene would be where all the boys have a paintball war. It is hilarious and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Camp Cool Kids is somewhat religious based. They mention David and Goliath and other Bible stories. Grandpa Norman (Michael Gross) tells David’s tale and how he took on Goliath all by himself. His faith in God is what helped him through that journey.  The storyline is somewhat quirky and, although it’s not new, it does have a few twists and turns along with a new perspective. Spencer (Connor Rosen), my favorite character, is a shy, honest, goodhearted kid that wants to stay at home and be with his family during the summer. Grandpa Norman (Michael Gross) says it is time for Spencer to go to summer camp and make new friends. His older brother Dean (Sean Ryan Fox), the handsome, cool kid who seems like he has it all, goes to summer camp to make friends and meet girls. Shy Spencer goes a long way from home and off to Camp Cool Kids for the summer, against his wishes. Spencer meets many new friends that he will remember forever such as the adorable Tater (Jacob T. Phillips), his lovable twin Tot (Jordan A. Phillips), the man whose has got the fire, nickname Firefly (Tyree Brown) and the quirky, always-there-for-you kind of friend, Little John (Juliocesar Chavez).

Spencer also makes a new enemy as well, Zach (Logan Shroyer), the cute but not-so-kind villain. Zach and Dean become friends and amuse themselves by pulling a prank or two on the younger boys including Spencer, his brother. There are lots of pranks and silly fun in this adventure.

I recommend this for ages 7 to 18. Kids will love the idea of summer camp and will want to try some of the events. Adults will have memory flashbacks. It is full lessons, humor and heartfelt moments. I give this 4 ½ out of 5 swimming campers’ fun tale.

Celebrate Naturalist and 19th Century Painter John James Audubon in Audubon

July 9th, 2017

John James Audubon was one of the most remarkable men of early America. A contemporary of Lewis & Clark and Davey Crockett, he explored the American frontier in search of “the feathered tribes” he loved and studied. A self-taught artist and ornithologist, he left a legacy of art and science that made him famous in his lifetime and endures to this day. His portrait hangs in the White House, his statue stands over the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History, and his name was adopted by the nation’s first conservation organization. The program, filmed in locations where Audubon painted, brings to life his timeless paintings with dazzling footage of the living birds he immortalized and celebrates visually the natural world he described in his writings. Interviews reveal the man, explore his art and put his groundbreaking work in modern perspective. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Eli B. comments, “Audubon is such a great film about the life and contributions of John James Audubon. His struggle and journey as a Haitian immigrant to the United States of America is inspiring. The paintings he created forever immortalized the subjects (some of which are now extinct) and the research he did ultimately led to our nation’s first conservation organization.” See her full review below.

Audubon
By Elizabeth B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This documentary gives an in-depth history of the life of John James Audubon. There are many examples of his beautiful works of art, maps charting his journey from Haiti to America and excerpts from the journals he kept throughout his life. This DVD offers a great way to teach anyone about John James Audubon. The art and story telling is not only beautiful and interesting, but important scientifically and in regards to American history.

The film flows well with great detail and historical accuracy. The material is easily understood and, after scientific elaborations, often a more simplified explanation is given. John James Audubon was a man of incredible talent and fortitude. He faced many challenges such as childhood abandonment, adult poverty and immigration during the 1800s. The film wonderfully details not only his countless contributions to art, science and conservation, but the challenges he faced and surpassed are an equally important part of his story. This film will prompt many questions regarding many topics! Throughout it, Audubon’s travels are documented on a virtual map. The map brings about questions regarding geography, immigration, cultural differences, animal species of North America and many other topics that appeal to many age groups.

The film has great visual appeal. It is filmed in locations where Audubon painted and, throughout it, these works are shown in all their glory. Selections of Audubon’s original journal entries are seen for the first time in this film as well. The cover of the DVD and the CD have iconic Audubon images titled “Wild Turkey” and “The Great Horned Owl”. This offers the option of viewing the 90 minute theatrical version or the 60 minute broadcast version. English subtitles are available. Scene selection is not available, but you can pause, rewind or fast forward as necessary.

Audubon is such a great film about the life and contributions of John James Audubon. His struggle and journey as a Haitian immigrant to the United States of America is inspiring. The paintings he created forever immortalized the subjects (some of which are now extinct) and the research he did ultimately led to our nation’s first conservation organization. This film will prompt many questions regarding many topics including birds, painting, hiking and travel, American history in the early 1800s and more. The message of this film is in its detailed historical look at the life and contributions of John James Audubon to art, science and Conservation.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Audubon will be available on DVD June 20, 2017.  Reviewed by Eli B., KIDS FIRST! Juror.

 

The Resilient Heart – A Must See If You Have Been Touched by Heart Disease

July 7th, 2017

The Resilient Heart explores the keys to preventing heart disease on a worldwide scale. At the film’s core is the story of Dr. Valentín Fuster, a world-renowned cardiovascular scientist, and Director of Mount Sinai Heart and Physician-in-Chief at The Mount Sinai Hospital. Through his exploration of the heart at the molecular level, Dr. Fuster discovers that the real answer to defeating chronic disease lies in a much larger place: early education. By highlighting scientific contributions ranging from basic science to translational research, the film addresses the improvement of clinical and surgical care efforts to promote lifestyles that prevent or slow the progression of heart disease. Ultimately, it shows how the intersection of science, medicine, research, education and compassion bring about changes that are not only important but also replicable by physicians and patients throughout the world . The film follows Dr. Fuster and his team as they travel to Eldoret (Kenya), Bogota and more. If you or someone you know has ever been touched by a heart disease, you really must see this film. 

The Resilient Heart
By Samantha Marcus, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17 

This inspirational film kept me glued to the edge of my seat. I didn’t know that heart disease is the number one killer in society today. It fascinates me that there are incredible individuals in this world such as Dr. Valentin Fuster who want to make a difference in the lives of others, especially with a disease that is so common.  

In this documentary promoting worldwide heart health, we see cardiologist Valentin Fuster working with doctors around the globe to help individuals realize that behavior is the key to combating heart disease. Traveling to countries like Kenya, Colombia and Grenada, Fuster works with both children and adults to help facilitate healthy behavior, through group therapy sessions, classroom instruction and community volunteering. 

Valentin Fuster has the biggest heart. He flies to other countries once a week to help people. He gets up at 4:30 every morning, works 7 days a week and works with kids for 15 years to help them understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I wish I could meet him, because I would love to thank him for all of the incredible work he has done for kids and adults around the world.  

I really admire that the film is not based in a single geographical location. It is fascinating to see different cultures and compare them, and see how heart disease affects poor countries, which most people are not aware of. The fact that I was able to see how different areas of the world need so much help from future generations motivates me to follow in Fuster’s footsteps – first starting in my own community, then making my impact even bigger. 

My favorite part of this film is when Dr. Fuster talks about his motivation and says that if he died tomorrow, he would be okay with it, because he has helped so many people. This is rewarding to him. The message of this film is that we have the power to keep our hearts healthy. You can start focusing on heart health at any age and, although we can’t necessarily cure heart disease, we can prevent it by exercising, eating right and avoiding incredible amounts of stress. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 12 to 18. Adults would love it too. No age is too young to begin taking care of your heart. You can watch this film on Amazon now! This is the documentary of a lifetime.

 

The Book of Henry – Surprisingly good with excellent writing and performances

June 16th, 2017

Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan Carpenter works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila. Her younger son Peter is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry, age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother – and, through investments, of the family as a whole – Henry blazes through the days like a comet. Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina, has a dangerous secret – and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “However, I was pleasantly surprised by this under-the-radar film and am sure general audiences will as well. The Book of Henry is an emotionally affecting film with a few fine messages about parenthood and altruism.” See his full review below.

The Book of Henry
Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18

I had no expectations going into this movie. I knew I like the director, the leading actress and it has an interesting premise. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this under-the-radar film and am sure general audiences will as well. The Book of Henry is an emotionally affecting film with a few fine messages about parenthood and altruism.

The movie actually surprised me. Perhaps it’s because I had no prior knowledge about it, but the twist (I don’t think it’s supposed to be a twist per se) in the movie is reminiscent of Psycho, in that the seeming protagonist has an interesting cinematic journey. That provides the basis of our catharsis. It’s actually very solid writing. We become invested in this character who has a charm and wit about him that’s irresistibly likable and we fall for him. We become invested in his relationships with his mother, his little brother and his neighbor. The plot is already in motion and then the twist happens.

After this twist, the true protagonist comes to the forefront and we become invested in her because we feel for her and root for her cause. The only issue – her cause happens to be literally unbelievable and predictably improbable. However, we find ourselves nearly believing it. I mean, there’s a sequence that’s utterly Hitchcockian, when there’s cross editing between two separate scenes. One scene is used as the musical background for the other and the tension is palpable. It’s reminiscent of the concert scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It all comes to a satisfying ending that we all knew was coming and yet, isn’t any less smile inducing.

The performances are very good. Naomi Watts is one of our generation’s most consistent actors and the youngsters Jacob Tremblay and  Jaeden Lieberher hold their weight and then some. However the score and direction deserve a lot of credit. The film is very well paced and switches between tones so seamlessly. Never are we pulled out of the film because it gets boring or it goes too quickly or it switches between genres.

A lot of reviews are bashing the film. Don’t get me wrong, it has its flaws. The foundation of the character is never told and is a glaring hole. A few plot elements are improbable, definitely. However, those are forgivable in the grand scheme. This film has charm and intrigue. I believe it’ll go down as one of those films where critics and general audiences just don’t agree. With that said, I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It can be seen at a local theater when it opens June 16, 2017.

 

Holden On – A remarkable film about a teen’s struggle with mental illness

June 12th, 2017

No longer your average boy-next-door, Holden Layfield weaves audiences through his harrowing tale in this film set in the early 1990s. After succumbing to a secret battle with mental illness, Holden evolves from a beloved, small town Georgia football player to a lost, self-medicating prophet. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “I don’t remember the last time I laughed and cried within minutes of each other…This film helped my heart grow bigger and make me more empathetic towards others.” See her full review.

Holden On
By Samantha Marcus, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

This exceptional film brought out all of my emotions, which is why it is one of my new favorites. I don’t remember the last time I laughed and cried within minutes of each other. I’m glad I was able to express my emotions, because that is what makes me relate to a film. This film helped my heart grow bigger and make me more empathetic towards others.

Based on a true story, Holden On is about a 17-year-old boy named Holden Layfield, who lives in a small town in Georgia and is a star athlete. Playing football like a professional, Layfield receives multiple college scholarships and is ready to begin a new chapter in his life. But, he has a big secret: he is battling a mental illness. Over a two year period, Layfield tries to keep his illness to himself and transforms from a fantastic football player to a prophet who believes he can save the world.

Matthew Fahey portrays Holden in a remarkable fashion. He acts very humble, which illustrates how kind-hearted Holden truly is. However, because of his humility, it is difficult for Holden’s family to decipher his thoughts. Fahey makes you believe that Holden is completely fine and, because he isn’t, it makes the plot even more intriguing. Steve Ellis’ portrayal of Zinte, Holden’s best friend, is humorous. Zinte truly cares about Holden and it is evident through their five year friendship. Ellis characterizes Zinte as comical, joking around with him to cheer him up. But, he is unaware of Holden’s issue. These lead actors left me on the edge of my seat for the entire film.

 I love the music in this film because which is from the 80s, opening with “It’s the End of the World” by R.E.M. The film is set in the 90s, but the music is from an older era and includes bands such as Suzie Rose and Tommy McCarthy. My favorite parts of the film are when Holden is in a situation and the camera shifts towards his point of view. For example, Holden tackles another team player on the football field before the game begins. The camera cuts to Holden’s thoughts, displaying a visual of what is going on in his brain. I enjoyed how Holden narrates his thoughts when this occurs, because I could empathize more with him.  

The message of this film is that you are not alone, even if you’re battling mental illness. Talk to your friends, family or a professional about your feelings, because there is someone who is always willing to help. Mental illness is common and not many people are aware of the help available to those who are suffering. That a movie has been created to address the issue touches my heart.  

Be forewarned that Holden resorts to drugs to cope with his illness yet, this film has such an impactful message that I wish every kid could see it. We can all help those who are dealing with mental illness. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 16 to 18 as well as adults. Go to Iamholdenon.org to read about the nationwide movement supporting treating mental illness through artistic expression. Also, catch this film when it comes out June 7, 2017. It is one that you don’t want to miss.

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