A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie focuses on communication, empathy, and perseverance. Charles' love for Dana and their baby transcends death. His lessons to his son are appreciated decades later, showing how letters and journals can help keep a person's beliefs alive.
Positive Role Models
Charles is loyal, caring, and dedicated to his fellow soldiers, Dana, and their baby. Dana is a smart, ambitious, self-motivated woman who succeeds as a Black journalist and editor in a majority White newsroom. Charles and Dana's relationship involves healthy communication, trust, and respect.
The director and main characters are Black, but Dana's inner circle of friends is conspicuously White. A gay White man who's Dana's good friend is portrayed in a way that's based in stereotype. The issue of colorism is explored, because Jordan is lighter-skinned than Dana (light-skinned Jordan's Blackness is disputed or ridiculed by classmates). Dana is a smart, ambitious, and self-motivated woman. As a boy, Jordan tells his mom that people believe his father is really in prison rather than that he died as a soldier in the war.
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Violence & Scariness
There are flashbacks to Charles' time deployed overseas in the Middle East. Sequences detail his final mission and the explosion that led to his death (and injured others). Footage from 9/11, including scenes of the Twin Towers on fire and the moment of impact when the second plane hit the South Tower. Shots of people crying and screaming.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One bare (male) butt, several scenes of Charles and Dana kissing passionately, and a couple of love scenes that include lingerie, bare backs, and a bare chests (a man's). Dana and her friends have suggestive conversations about her sex life with Charles. Jokes/comments about his amazing body, her vibrator, and more.
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Strong language is occasional and includes "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "damn," "Negro," and racial slurs that Jordan hears as a tween: "wigger," "N" word, etc. "God" and "oh God" used as exclamations.
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Products & Purchases
Ford, Brisk iced tea.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink cocktails, beer, and wine at meals and gatherings. Adult siblings smoke a joint together.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Journal for Jordan is director Denzel Washington's adaptation of former New York Times editor Dana Canedy's (Chanté Adams) memoir. It tells the story of her late partner, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles King (Michael B. Jordan), who, while deployed post-9/11, wrote in a special journal for their unborn and then-baby son, Jordan. Expect depictions of military violence -- an explosion kills Charles and severely injures others in his unit -- as well as footage from 9/11 of the planes hitting the Twin Towers. There are also several scenes of Dana and Charles flirting, kissing, and eventually making love (his bare butt and both of their bare shoulders and sides are visible). While the film's director and leads are Black, Dana's life centers around White best friends, and the issue of colorism is explored: Light-skinned Jordan's Blackness is disputed (or ridiculed) by classmates. Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "bitch," "wigger," and more. Families can discuss the importance of communication, empathy, and perseverance, the enduring legacy of lost loved ones, and how letters and journals can keep a person's beliefs alive. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Washington's adaptation boasts talented actors but lacks a nuanced script and the on-screen chemistry necessary to elevate the drama beyond the sentimental. Since his directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, the actor-turned-director has consistently taken his time between projects; usually the result is a highly personal and evocative film, like the excellent stage-to-screen adaptation of Fences, in which he also starred. So it's disappointing that this, his fourth feature film (and third adaptation) misses the mark. It's not that it's bad -- because it's never a waste to see Jordan act in any film role -- but it's uneven, oddly paced, and feels more like a predictably maudlin Lifetime drama than an effective narrative film. Part of the problem is the dialogue and the forced, almost sitcom-ish way that Dana interacts with her circle of friends (which, oddly, lacks one Black or Brown person). The bantering friends, who wax poetic about Charles' body, aren't developed enough to also be the support network she needs after he dies. And there are several unresolved issues that the script introduces but never develops (like Charles' daughter from a previous marriage or Dana's issues with her father's infidelity).
Another problem is that, despite their individual appeal, there's not a lot of romantic chemistry between Adams and Jordan. What passes a chemistry test can be subjective to the viewer, but here it just doesn't burn up the screen. It's clear that this is a beautiful real-life story of a couple's love and what an officer left behind for his partner and son to treasure long after his death. That makes the idea of reading the book appealing, to dig deeper into the events that inspired the movie. If anything, this is a tale that should be explored as a documentary to celebrate Canedy and King's love -- and his legacy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.