A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the heroine's mother is killed (off screen) in a bad car accident in which the girl is a passenger. The girl becomes withdrawn and is sent to live with an apparently alcoholic grandfather because she can no longer stand her well-meaning, kind father. The movie confronts the idea of animal euthanasia repeatedly, with subplots of tainted animal feed, puppies consigned to drowning due to bad bloodlines, and a surreptitious no-kill animal shelter. A child releases all the dogs in a shelter, and as a consequence one is hit by a car while another inflicts a bite on a human.
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What's the story?
ALL ROADS LEAD TO HOME, a film inspired by a true story, seems like it will be a formulaic coming-of-age story for a child whose mother suffers a sudden and tragic death. Belle (Vivien Cardone) is an animal lover who becomes withdrawn from her family after the car crash that kills her mother, repelling repeated attempts by her father (Jason London) to reach her. He eventually sends her to live with her gruff maternal grandfather Hock (Peter Coyote) on his horse farm, where he too is coping with his sorrows. Belle's opposition to animal euthanasia cause her to tangle both with her father, the town dog catcher; his love interest, the town vet (Vanessa Branch,) and her grandfather and his cowboy staff. Untangling complicated plot threads gives Belle plenty of opportunity to emerge from her shell.
Is it any good?
Even for a movie originally made for television, the editing in All Roads Lead Home is choppy and distracts from the story. So many subplots emerge – the vet's efforts to identify the mysterious cause of death for her patients, the dog catcher's attempts to save his charges from the inevitable end at the shelter, Belle's stop-and-start friendship with farmworker Basham (Evan Parke,) that it seems like the story will never wrap up in two hours. Weird dialogue doesn't help – when a hotel owner says "It rained like God was wetting his pants" and Basham cautions that a risky maneuver will have a character "crossing the Jordan on a Jetski" the folksy vibe just goes off the rails.
Perhaps more confusing is the movie's message – is it for or against animal euthanasia? Belle is an animal lover, but when a dog appears to have attacked another character for no reason and must be put down, it is Belle who makes the noble decision to end its life. In the next scene, the characters are celebrating the opening of a no-kill animal shelter. Similar contradictions make a movie that could be wholesome family fare a little dark and confusing instead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the message of this movie. Is it pro-animal rights or anti? What are the different ways to value a domestic pet vs. a farm animal? If you haven't read "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, this movie's many references to the story gives you a good reason to open it.
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