Beautifully Broken

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Beautifully Broken Movie Poster Image
Inspiring true story has violent genocide flashbacks.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Themes include tolerance, respect, compassion, courage, redemption, treating everyone the same despite their ethnic background or religion, kindness toward those who have less than you. Values are underlined in dialogue like "Speak kindly of others; you don't know what paths they have traveled." A character coded as evil makes a comment to his son to make a point about racism: "What did I tell you about talking to those people?"

Positive Role Models & Representations

William is a noble, heroic character who finds many ways to help others, such as opening a community center for refugees. Randy makes mistakes in his parenting, and Mugenzi commits terrible acts -- both are able to find redemption by changing their ways.

Violence

Mostly non-graphic but still very disturbing: Rebels with machine guns and machetes threaten families, including young children, are shown hacking people to death (no blood, and scenes are frequently shown in long shots or silhouette). Dead bodies are shown, including small child wearing yellow dress spattered with blood. Victims are forced to the ground, screaming and crying, and killed. A teen girl is raped; it's depicted by showing an older boy holding his hand over her mouth as she cries, telling her "Be still" before the visuals cut away -- the word "rape" is never said.

Sex

Female teens talk about cute boys.

Language

Infrequent use of phrases/words including "oh, gosh," "crap," and "shut up."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mom asks her teen daughter if she's been drinking. A girl is arrested for having a baggie of pills that a boy has slipped into her purse. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beautifully Broken is a drama about the Rwandan genocide and how it affects three different families. Most worrisome to parents will be the film's realistic (though mostly non-graphic) depiction of the horror and insanity of genocide. Rebels with machine guns and machetes threaten families, including young children, and are shown hacking people to death. Dead bodies are shown, including a small child wearing a yellow dress that's spattered with blood. Victims are forced to the ground, screaming and crying, and killed. A teen girl is raped; while it's clear what's happening, the word "rape" is never said. Language is very mild ("oh, gosh," "crap," "shut up"), and there's no iffy sexual content. Drugs are depicted in a criminal case; no one uses them on-screen. Christian themes are strong, with many references to God and prayer. Messages/themes also include tolerance, respect, compassion, courage, redemption, and kindness.

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What's the story?

Bouncing back and forth between 1994, when the Rwandan genocide resulted in the slaughter of 800,000 people, and 10 years later in a suburban Southern town named Hartley, BEAUTIFULLY BROKEN examines love, forgiveness, and redemption through three fathers. There's William (Benjamin A. Onyango), who flees Rwanda just ahead of machete-wielding soldiers; Randy (Scott William Winters), an American dad watching helplessly as his daughter Andrea (Emily Hahn) and family fall apart; and Mugenzi (Bonko Khoza), who pays a heavy price for joining the Rwandan guerillas. United by history, chance, and the bonds of love, these three men go to incredible lengths to keep their families safe -- and together, they find redemption in helping each other.

Is it any good?

Circling around the 1994 Rwanda genocide and offering themes of redemption and forgiveness, this inspiring true story drags a little but has its heart in the right place. Beautifully Broken scores when it focuses on the love that its three fathers have for their families -- and the extraordinary (and sometimes horrible) things they do to protect these families. Rwandan refugee William leaves his wife and daughter for years to make a new life for them in America, Mugenzi reluctantly joins a killing squad to keep soldiers from harming his family, and Randy changes his life to focus more on his troubled daughter. Sympathetically depicted, the sacrifices the three dads make may have sensitive viewers misting up. 

Still, this movie isn't easy to watch. Though the scenes set during the genocide are non-graphic, they're scary and horrific. And on the other side of things, the family drama drags a bit. Viewers may be able to predict every beat of Andrea's downfall and redemption, and the film is neither written or acted strongly enough to elevate the material above a "Very Special Episode" level. Time your bathroom/phone-checking breaks for the Hartley segments of the movie, and sit up and pay attention during the scenes when Mugenzi rejoins his family after imprisonment and William heads back to Rwanda to find out what became of his family during the war. These moments are this movie's beating heart: regretful, tender, and full of hope. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way ordinary people become capable of extraordinary courage. How do we know what we would do in a particular circumstance? How do we make sure we do the right thing?

  • How does the violence in Beautifully Broken compare to what you might see in an action movie? Which has more impact? Why?

  • How do William and the other characters in this movie display courage and compassion through their words and actions? Why are these important character strengths

  • America is often portrayed as a place of refuge, where those from war-torn countries can find safety and justice. What other depictions of America in this role have you seen? Have you seen anything that contradicts this image?

Movie details

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