An American Girl Story - Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
An American Girl Story - Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Indomitable girl speaks up for civil rights in sweet story.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 48 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Melody's story condenses the complex matter of the civil rights era into something kids can understand. While the story is fictional, it does incorporate historically accurate events of the time.

Positive Messages

Kids see the implications of the civil rights era through the eyes of 10-year-old Melody, who feels it primarily in strained relationships with her peers and injustices she and her mother experience. Despite the prejudice she feels, Melody is determined to see the best in people and for her future, always choosing love over hate. Other characters represent factions of the period, from white people adamantly against equal rights to African-American people who have lost hope of a better future. Melody and her mother discuss her father's death.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Melody gets her strength from her mother, who refuses to let circumstance influence her view of the world. Despite the struggles for African-Americans of the time, she believes in the power of love and encourages her daughter to pursue her dreams for the future. Melody is outspoken and willing to question authority in positive ways. Other characters, including some classmates and her grandfather, have less rosy views of race relations and the future, but their negativity only helps accentuate Melody's indomitable spirit.

Violence & Scariness

No violence is shown, but there are references to historical events that subjected African-Americans to violence during this era, including the fatal bombing of a Birmingham church and incidents of police brutality.

Sexy Stuff

This story is based on Melody, a member of the American Girl product collection. There's no direct marketing, but the movie tells her backstory to put into context the character's place in American history.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRdinws April 19, 2019

Good movie as a standalone but nothing like the book

We watched the movie before we read the book. It does a really good job of showing racism and the Birmingham bombing in a way that children can process. We lo... Continue reading
Parent Written byTyler N. January 4, 2019

Great, but intense

So happy my girls (8 and 5) watched this. An important part of history that can bring up crucial questions of racism from the past and present. They do talk a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCanDAmeChibi April 1, 2021

This movie is a waste of time and was produced with a lack of effort

For a movie that was supposed to challenge racism, this movie was very racist, beginning with the fact that a Black girl (and several others) called her own sel... Continue reading

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?

  • How do different characters in this story illustrate character strengths such as perseverance? Who in Melody's life helps inspire her to stay the course?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love great girl role models

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

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