Drama is bland but teaches girls about competitive rowing.
  • Review Date: September 20, 2012
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Discipline and drive are encouraged as part of the competitive spirit needed to be as successful athlete. Strong "women in sports" message revolving around a sport that isn't usually represented in movies: rowing.

Positive role models

Despite her flaws and her inability to accept being an alternate on the Olympic team, Abi is a role model for her dedication to rowing, as both a rower and a coach. Her advice that girls shouldn't be afraid to bring a little bit of aggression to their competitions is an important lesson for kids to learn.

Not applicable

Abi and Geoff flirt and eventually kiss.


One "s--t," plus "stupid," "loser," and other insults like "selfish," "lazy," and "old."


One scene in which Tootsie Rolls are shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Backwards is a sports drama that's more about a coach's journey than a group of players. Written by and starring a former rower, the movie offers a look at a sport that isn't usually depicted in movies (rowing) and encourages girls to discover their inner athlete. While the content is mild overall -- there's one use of the word "s--t" (as well as some other milder insult language) and a bit of flirting/kissing -- the themes might be a bit too mature (or uninteresting) for the under-10 set.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Abi Brooks (screenwriter and former rower Sarah Meghan Thomas) has one goal before her upcoming 30th birthday: to make it on the women's Olympic rowing team. But after failing to make the boat for the second Olympics in a row, she gives up her alternate spot and hightails it back to her hometown of Philadelphia, where her mother (Margaret Colin) hopes she'll take a high-paying job. Instead, Abi decides to ask her former sweetheart, Geoff (James Van Der Beek), for a job coaching the girls' rowing team at their high school alma mater. Now a coach, Abi sees particular potential in two girls, Hannah (Alexandra Metz) and Susan (Meredith Apfelbaum), who just need the right kind of guidance to make it to the world-famous Henley Royal Regatta in England.

Is it any good?


Part failure-to-launch tale and part inspirational sports film, BACKWARDS is a movie that hinges completely on the performance of its star. And while there's no doubt about Thomas' love of rowing (the title is a reference to the fact it's the only sport where you win going "backwards"), she lacks the charisma necessary to pull off such an obvious star vehicle. Not to mention that the film seems to take itself and its protagonist far too seriously. There's no joy (at least out of the water), no humor, no chemistry to speak of -- with Abi's potential love interest, her students, or even her mom. 

One of the movie's few memorable scenes is a small but telling moment when a distraught, restless Abi gorges herself on Tootsie rolls, stuffing them in her mouth as if their sticky sweetness can erase the overwhelming sense of failure she feels. There's no dialogue, but the act is a poignant reminder of everything Abi sacrificed to train for four -- really eight -- years, but it still wasn't enough. Eventually Abi's dream comes true, but it comes at a cost she's not willing to pay. Hoosiers or Remember the Titans this isn't, but at least, for once, it's about the ambition of female athletes.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why more sports movies seem to concentrate on men/boys than women/girls. Which examples can you think of in both categories?

  • Did Backwards teach you anything about rowing you didn't know? Does it seem like a sport you'd want to try?

  • Do you think Abi ultimately made the right decision? Should she have chosen her own dream rather than her students'?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 21, 2012
DVD release date:December 11, 2012
Cast:James Van Der Beek, Margaret Colin, Sarah Megan Thomas
Director:Ben Hickernell
Studio:Dada Films
Topics:Sports and martial arts
Run time:89 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some mild language

This review of Backwards was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide