Be the Light

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Be the Light Movie Poster Image
Earnest, faith-based tearjerker shows the power of love.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 109 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Shows the personal, mental/spiritual, and physical healing power of love and forgiveness, from both giving and receiving them. Coming together as a family or a community gives you collective strength you can use to overcome situations where you've been powerless on your own. Your generosity will be returned to you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At first Celina models self-destructive behavior, mostly from excess drinking. She disappoints friends and family and misses important occasions. But she becomes an excellent mother, daughter, friend when she starts helping others. Marvin is a former gang member who has already put his past life behind him and is trying to help others by opening a community center. He's driven, kind, supportive, and not interested in revenge for a past injustice. Cast members are positive representations of a range of races and ethnicities.


A man slaps his teen son.


Some sexual innuendo in a bar setting. A couple of brief kisses on the lips.


"Slut," "damn," and "pissed off." A character remembers being called "queer" and "twink" in the past.


Boost Mobile and Home Depot mentioned to establish character and location. A character drinks from a Jack Daniels bottle.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A scene in a nightclub shows adults drinking excessive shots of tequila, with drunken behavior like falling over and slurring words. An adult character drinks from a bottle of alcohol during the day. Mention of a past arrest for possession of marijuana. An adult in a bar smokes, as does an adult with lung cancer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Be the Light is a faith-based, terminal-illness drama that shows the healing power of love, family, and forgiveness. There are some depictions of excessive alcohol use, strong language like "slut" and "damn," and a character with lung cancer who smokes cigarettes. But the story is about people who change for the better thanks to love and support from family and community. A man slaps his teenage son. The cast is diverse and provides a lot of positive role models, especially for Latinx and Black viewers. Although many characters clearly identify as Christian, the movie doesn't preach, and the themes of love, family, and forgiveness aren't presented as belonging to any one religion in particular.

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What's the story?

BE THE LIGHT is about Celina (Cara Santana), a good-time, heavy-drinking partyer with a troubled past. And now her drinking is making her cause problems for her best friend and disappointing her 9-year-old daughter. Her life takes a sudden turn when she gets a letter from her estranged father Ramon (Michael DeLorenzo), who asks to see her because he's only got a year left to live. Celina's childhood friend Marvin (Malcolm Goodwin, who also directs) is trying to raise money so that Ramon can get better treatment before it's too late. By helping Marvin and her father, Celina starts to see the true power of love and forgiveness to heal. She also learns the power of coming together as a family and a community. But even with all that, will they be able to raise enough money in time to help Ramon?

Is it any good?

This earnest, terminal-illness tearjerker is sometimes predictable and clichéd, but the engaging cast and solid storytelling help the viewer get past those problems. Be the Light is a fine choice for families who can handle the sadness from the death of a loved one and who are looking for diverse, positive representations and uplifting messages about family, love, and forgiveness.

Of course, the plot involves a plucky group of friends entering a talent contest, and unfortunately the singing, songwriting, and dancing are a bit uneven. But it's refreshingly free of preachiness for a movie with strong religious themes. It also encourages viewers to see people for who they are and what they do now, not to judge them for what they used to do. Some iffy behavior, rare strong language, and nuanced situations make it best for teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Be the Light portrays Celina. Is she a positive role model? What are her character strengths and weaknesses?

  • Why is it important for movies and other media to have diverse characters? Is it important to see people like yourself in the media? Does it affect the way you see people who are different from you?

  • What other faith-based movies have you seen? How does this one compare? Which is your favorite?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love faith-based tales

Themes & Topics

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