A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
While it deals with the subject of intense grief, the movie tries to stay positive and relatively non-political, focusing on the need to persevere and find common ground when it comes to gun control so that we can keep kids safe.
Positive Role Models
Mark Barden and his family never intended to become activists and might never have taken that path had Daniel not been killed. And while they could choose to give up at any time, the truth is that they threw themselves into it and worked hard to keep it going, even though Mark explains how difficult it all is, "physically, emotionally, mentally, all of it." Mark works tirelessly to help humanize the issue of gun control in the hopes of stopping more school shootings. Toward the end of the film, President Biden congratulates Mark, who "did more than anybody to keep this going." Meanwhile, stubborn lawmakers are chastised, and only one interviewee mentions the fear of "coming for my guns," countering with "Don't question my patriotism! I'm just a mamma bear, and I'm not going to live like this." Several interviewees, including Senator Chris Murphy and former President Obama, say that they see a brighter future in which gun control and fewer school shootings are more of a possibility.
The movie is largely focused on a White man who's frequently surrounded by other White men, especially when playing music. Black musicians appear from time to time, including musician Bernie Williams and rapper Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C., as well as the son and granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther King III and Yolanda King, and a few others. Non-binary Latino activist X González (formerly known as Emma González), who survived the deadliest school shooting in history and gave a viral speech, is seen in clips. Many women are interviewed, including musicians Karen Fairchild and Sheryl Crow, who speak out frankly.
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Violence & Scariness
No graphic footage, but there are frequent, vivid discussions of school shootings, guns, and death. The movie's focus is mainly on loss and grief.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief romantic story of Mark and Jackie meeting and falling in love.
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A sign at a protest reads "F--k the NRA." Use of "kick-ass."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Father's Promise is a heartfelt, moving documentary about Mark Barden and his family, who, in 2012, lost 7-year-old Daniel in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The film tells the story of the 10 years after that event, covering Mark's activism, perseverance, and the formation of the organization Sandy Hook Promise, which is dedicated to ending gun violence. It also deals with his personal journey of finding music again and learning how to combine that love with his grief and activism. No graphic violence is shown, but school shootings, guns, and death are discussed in detail, and the movie has a strong theme of grief and loss. A sign reading "F--k the NRA" is seen in a photo of a protest, and a musician uses the phrase "kick-ass" to describe a band. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
What this documentary, which is filled with heartfelt musical performances, lacks in style, it makes up for in sincerity and compassion. A Father's Promise paints a stirring picture of heartbreak and striving to carry on. The first thing you notice about the film are the images of Daniel, a wild-haired kid with a couple of missing teeth, forever captured full to the brim of life. It's hard not to fall in love with these images or to feel his family's genuine pain. It's also impossible not to admire Mark, who's truly a man of principle. We see him showing up for dozens of personal appearances and speeches, often tearful, standing next to Presidents Obama and Biden and in a crowd with Martin Luther King Jr.'s offspring. And when the movie covers the 2022 trial of right-wing radio host Alex Jones -- who was sentenced to pay $1 billion in damages for lying to his listeners about the Sandy Hook shootings -- and Jones gloats that "they will never see the money," Mark says, "we don't care about the money." And we believe him, totally.
The filmmakers' choice to present the material in the context of music is a powerful one, as the movie's selection of rootsy/bluesy/folksy/country tunes helps the material seem less heavy and more human. By the time A Father's Promise ends, it becomes abundantly clear that the problem of mass shootings is solvable, even if the grief they've caused remains.
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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.