A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Father's Choice is the tale of two girls adjusting to a new life after their mother is murdered in an onscreen shooting, at close-range. The death is witnessed by the youngest daughter (age 10, who is traumatized by the event and flashes back to it in several later scenes). The resolution of the murder, however, stays in the background; the real story is the relationship that develops between the girls and their estranged father. There is occasional swearing ("damn," "hell," "ass"), some adult cigarette smoking (commented upon with: "second-hand smoke kills"), and one sequence in which the girls' father drinks heavily and gets into a bar fight.
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What's the story?
Mac (Peter Strauss) is a cowboy, former rodeo star, cattle wrangle, and loner. When his ex-wife, the mother of his two daughters, is murdered, Mac is given temporary custody of the girls, ages 13 and 10. Kelly and Chris have long been estranged from Mac, and the move from their upscale Los Angeles neighborhood to a rustic, small ranch house in the country adds to their grief and seems to be more than they can handle. Mac is also called upon to make significant life changes on short notice. With help from the committed social worker (Mary McDonnell) assigned to their case, Mac and the girls begin to work through their monumental differences, their anger, and their sorrow. The situation is further complicated by their wealthy aunt who is eager to gain custody and move the girls to Chicago, as well as Los Angeles police officers who are trying to solve the murder.
Is it any good?
Peter Strauss turns in a heartfelt performance as Mac, the dad who becomes a real father. It's a predictable story with a very predictable rivalry between an urban, affluent lifestyle and a modest ranch family with animals, cowboys, and "down-to-earth" values. The gentle romance between Mac and an earnest, sensitive social worker (Mary McDonnell) is well-played and believable.
The girls (Michelle Trachtenberg in an early role as the teen daughter and Yvonne Zima as her little sister) have difficult emotional work to do here, and they both meet the challenge. This made-for-TV movie, later released on DVD, was inspired by a true story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss movies that are inspired by or based on a true story. What do these terms mean and how do they differ? Is it important to know how much is real?
Try writing a short story "based on a real event" in your life. Think about how you would change some of the actual facts if you wanted to make it more dramatic.
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