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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that An American Girl Story – Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win is inspired by Melody, a character in the popular line of American Girl dolls and accessories. Melody is creative, principled, and smart, and she speaks out against the racial injustice she experiences as the civil rights movement rages on far from her Detroit home. In so doing, she makes a few enemies, but she's inspired by her mother's unfailing faith in a better future. While there's no violence shown, the story does incorporate the details of particularly violent moments in the 1960s, including the bombing of a Birmingham church and instances of police brutality on peaceful demonstrators. The story does well to balance these realities with Melody's hopeful message about love conquering fear. This is an excellent movie for families to enjoy together.
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What's the story?
In AN AMERICAN GIRL STORY – MELODY 1963: LOVE HAS TO WIN, Melody (Marsai Martin) is 10 years old and one of a handful of African-American students in her predominantly white elementary school in Detroit in 1963. As the civil rights movement gains momentum in the South, Melody and her family are mostly insulated from the harshest of racial tension, living in a northern state. But one by one, Melody starts to notice injustices that don't make any sense to her, and she speaks up against them, to mixed results. While her mother, Frances (Idara Victor), urges her to embrace the future without limits, her grandfather (Frankie Faison) gets mired in the restrictions of the time, leaving Melody unsure of where to turn for inspiration in this tumultuous period.
Is it any good?
This movie is a heartwarming story of perseverance and faith in the face of a struggle for basic human rights. An American Girl Story – Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win opens with a carefree Melody happily considering a limitless future before small doses of reality set in and she starts to see her situation in another light. From small injustices such as classmates shunning her to larger ones such as being falsely accused of wrongdoing, Melody begins to fear that she will be defined by her skin color rather than by her potential. As she adds her voice to a generation calling for change, she helps inspire those around her to do the same.
This lovely story has moments that feel too rushed and some characters who could have used further development, especially in the case of Melody's intriguing teacher, Miss Abbot (Frances Fisher). Even so, it does a brilliant job of putting the sensitive and complex issue of the civil rights movement into context kids will understand. And as role models go, it's hard to top intuitive, indomitable Melody, whose optimism helps inspire and change the minds of those around her.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about race relations in An American Girl Story – Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win and now. In what ways has the situation improved since the civil rights movement? Are some places better than others with regard to race relations? Where do improvements still need to be made?
What makes Melody a good role model? Can you be inspired by someone younger than you? Would it be scary to be alone in standing up for what you believe is right? Have you ever been in a position to do so?
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2016
- Cast: Marsai Martin, Frances Fisher
- Director: Tina Mabry
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Perseverance
- Run time: 48 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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