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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids need stability, caring parents, and an education. You can do anything when you set a goal and work hard for it. Race and class should not limit a person's potential. An opportunity or open door is sometimes all a person with potential needs to excel. Tenacity is a superpower.
Positive Role Models
Hernández is portrayed as a naturally intelligent individual raised to work hard, be humble, appreciate the sacrifices of those around him, and dream big. He is a loving, loyal family member. He shows perseverance in his work ethic, not giving up in the face of rejection, and humility in managing discriminatory behavior from people around him and remembering his roots even when he finds success. His wife, Adela, supports his dreams and eventually fulfills one of her own, showing tenacity in working hard and raising her children. A teacher sticks her neck out to advance a promising student. Colleagues underestimate Hernández but support his potential when they recognize it.
Hernández's parents migrated from Mexico to work in the fields of California, eventually settling in the Central Valley to give him a more stable life and education. Their extended, bilingual and bicultural family is depicted as close-knit, and other Mexican families are shown as protective of their own. Hernández encounters subtle racism throughout his life, from schoolmates laughing at his accent, to employers underestimating his potential, to people mistaking him for a janitor. He sometimes tries to hide his culture by adapting White music and food (he doesn't want to be known as the "enchiladas guy" at work). Through hard work and perseverance, he graduates from college, gets an engineering job, and becomes the first migrant worker in space. A fellow astronaut is an Indian American who mentions how important their presence is as minorities in their specialized field.
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Violence & Scariness
Mexican children helping their parents work the fields in the U.S. fall asleep in school, get teased, miss out on classes, have bandages on their fingers. A woman experiences pain in childbirth. A beloved relative is killed; a shoot-out is mentioned. A space shuttle explodes on launch, killing all those on board. Astronaut training includes some scary situations, mostly underwater.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Adults flirt, fall in love, kiss, and have children. A father insists on chaperoning his grown daughter's dates.
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"Hell," "stupid," "dumb," "numbnuts," "shut up."
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Products & Purchases
NASA, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, car brands, and some clothing brands are shown. The film is based on an autobiography by its main character. His family's winery is mentioned by name in the end credits.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink beer and tequila regularly.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the biopic A Million Miles Away, based on the autobiography of José M. Hernández, is the story of a Mexican migrant worker who became an astronaut. It depicts a family achieving the so-called American dream. The main character -- played as an adult by Michael Peña -- demonstrates tenacity and perseverance in his work ethic, not giving up in the face of rejection, and humility in managing discriminatory behavior from people around him and remembering his roots. His close-knit extended Mexican family makes sacrifices to support him. He goes from trying to hide his culture -- adapting White music and eating sandwiches rather than enchiladas at work -- to being proud of what he represents as a person of color and migrant worker going into space. He helps his wife open a Mexican restaurant and works there in his spare time. Mexican children who help their parents work the fields in the United States fall asleep in school, get teased, miss out on classes, and have bandages on their fingers. A beloved relative is killed, and a shoot-out is mentioned. A space shuttle explodes on launch, killing all those on board. Astronaut training includes some scary situations, mostly underwater. Adults drink beer and tequila regularly, and there's some flirting and kissing. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Benefiting from a well-structured script and understated directing and acting, this film molds an expectedly flattering underdog tale while resisting the fawning romanticism of some biopics. Based on the subject's own autobiography, A Million Miles Away is obviously complimentary of its subject, cherry-picking, condensing, and glossing over life details. But it manages to avoid idealization or overt nostalgia. For example, when young Hernández starts playing with a cob of corn, he fashions it into a rocket, so the corn represents a future built out of a past, not a romanticization of migrant work or a Mexican homestead. The story briskly introduces its characters to get us to Hernández's adulthood, which is assembled into parts based on his father's "five ingredients for success." It wasn't a necessary structure, but -- much like the corn and a somewhat magical theme involving migrating butterflies -- it adds to the tale's tone and meaning.
Peña embodies the future astronaut as a regular guy in a performance built around the idea of humility. His slightly pudgy and soft demeanor contributes, though it would seem he should have gotten stronger and thinner during his years of training. As his wife Adela, Salazar gives a memorably likable performance, and their relationship feels real in its tenderness. This telling wants to focus on how Hernández's unique success was built not just on his own tenacity but also on the sacrifices and support of those around him. A recurring visual theme shows groups of extended family members gathering around individuals, in celebration or in sadness, into hugging circles. The act and repeated image convey more about the significance of family and community than any dialogue could.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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