A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story Movie Poster Image
Outstanding role model urges kids to stand up to bullies.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 78 minutes

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age 12+
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Many important, powerful messages: No matter what, don't let bullies or haters get you down. Stand up, speak up, and make a difference. Be true to yourself, fight for what you believe in, and never stop trying or working for your dreams. What you do and strive for is what defines you, not how you look. Anything is possible if you believe in yourself and have a strong support system. Empathize with the people who bully you, and forgive those who wrong you. Additional themes include courage, perseverance, and compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lizzie is an incredibly inspiring role model; she's empathetic, sincere, practical, positive, and encouraging. She's faced whispers and laughs and cruelty her whole life, but she rarely lets negativity get to her (and the few times she does, it only makes her more relatable). Instead, she has become the change she wants to see, working tirelessly to stand up for herself and other bullying victims, help pass anti-bullying legislation, and showing the world that one person really can make a difference. Her friends and family members provide her with endless love and positive support.

Violence

References to extremely cruel online comments and other forms of bullying, including people on YouTube saying that Lizzie's parents should have aborted her (and much more). Discussion of bullying-related suicides, particularly Megan Meier, who hanged herself after becoming the victim of online bullies (Megan's mom is interviewed and begins crying at one point).

Sex

Song "Baby Got Back" is referenced.

Language

"F--king" is shown once in a screen capture of a cruel text about Lizzie.

Consumerism

Brands like YouTube, Google, and TED Talks are mentioned (as are talk shows like Katie and The View), but not in a promotional way.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Brave Heart is an inspiring, if sometimes intense, documentary about Lizzie Velasquez, who's fought tirelessly against bullying (both online and offline) ever since discovering a video of herself on YouTube titled "The World's Ugliest Woman." Born with a very rare congenital disease, Velasquez faces many health problems but still travels the country and the world speaking out against cruelty and in favor of anti-bullying legislation. She's an outstanding role model, and the film has many powerful messages for tweens and teens. That said, some parts can be upsetting, such as when the movie talks about bullying victims who've killed themselves (one mother is interviewed and gets very teary), when Lizzie reads hurtful comments about herself (and her friends and family members react with anger and sadness to her situation), and when Lizzie's precarious health is discussed. This is an important movie for parents and kids to watch together; hopefully it will encourage everyone who sees it to embrace who they are and stand up for themselves and others.

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Kid, 8 years old September 25, 2015

Beautiful, fantastic, heart warming docu has swearing, threats.

My rating:PG-13 for violent content, and strong language.

What's the story?

A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY introduces viewers to a friendly Texas girl with a big smile, big hair, and an enormous heart. Born with an extremely rare congenital condition that makes it impossible for her to gain weight (among other ongoing health issues), Lizzie has never looked like anyone else -- but thanks to loving parents and what sounds like an extremely supportive community, she managed to have a somewhat normal childhood and girlhood, despite some giggles, stares, and teasing. But then she found the video someone posted on YouTube with the title "The World's Ugliest Woman" -- and it was her. The hundreds of cruel comments ("Kill it with fire!" "Shoot yourself!") could have ensured that she never left the house again, but instead Lizzie found the strength and courage to stand up and fight back, first with her own YouTube channel and then via many media and speaking appearances across the country and around the world. Her tireless rallying cry of "embrace who you are" has earned her legions of fans, and she's now using her influence in support of anti-bullying legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Is it any good?

This inspiring documentary is a must-see for anyone who's ever felt like they just didn't fit in, and Lizzie is an amazing role model. She seems to have a never-ending fountain of determination and positivity to draw from -- which could make some people seem unapproachable or unrelatable, but not Lizzie: You get the feeling that she'd be just as happy to sit down and talk about random (positive!) YouTube videos with you as she'd be delivering an inspirational talk to 10,000 people in Mexico City. And the film does capture a few moments in which Lizzie's energy flags or she doubts herself, which humanizes her even further.

A Brave Heart may not break any ground in terms of filmmaking tricks/style, but it would be hard for even the most jaded of moviegoers to deny its appeal or the power of its message. Lizzie makes friends and runs into fans wherever she goes; her down-to-earth approachability and constant refrain of loving yourself, being yourself, and following your dreams have young people around the world hanging on her every word. We can only hope that they truly internalize what she's saying, extending her empathy, encouragement, and optimism even further.

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