Born to Win

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Born to Win Movie Poster Image
Faith-based story addresses abuse, alcoholism, disabilities.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Belief in Jesus heals all ills in life. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A man who was abused in childhood becomes hardened in order to protect himself emotionally. He rejects his previous religious beliefs because his prayers have not been answered. Later he turns to alcohol to relieve his pain. When this breaks up his marriage he turns to religion to help him become a better, more responsible person. He teaches at a school for the disabled and treats his students with compassion.

 

Violence

The aftermath of a car accident leaves one character in a coma and another less seriously injured. Off-screen a boy is abused physically and verbally by his stepfather. Police haul a young boy off from his kind caretakers only to later deliver him to an abusive home. A young man is bullied while shoveling coal into a train engine. His hands are bloodied by the work. A man yells furiously at God for harming his daughter. Henry, a young student who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, asks his teacher to help him kill himself.
 

Sex

A male student approaches a female student on their college campus and tells her she has great legs. She introduces him to her sister.

Language
Consumerism

Coca-Cola bottles are prominently displayed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The abuse of alcohol threatens to break up a marriage. Two drunk men disrupt a dinner. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Born to Win is a 2014 South African faith-based movie taken from the autobiography of the same title by a born-again Christian pastor who was abandoned by his parents when he was 6. The young boy is seen bloodied, presumably after a beating from his stepfather. Yelling and sounds of abuse are heard from outside their home. Briefly he's raised by his real father's black housekeeper until white police come take him back to his abusive stepfather because of segregation laws. Alcoholism and physical disabilities are depicted. Henry, a young student who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, asks his teacher to help him kill himself. The film suggests that they can all be either cured or made more bearable through faith in Jesus.

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What's the story?

In BORN TO WIN, Leon Terblanche (Gregory Kriek) is abandoned by selfish and abusive parents when he is 6. He is taken in by his father's black housekeeper and she raises him as her own until white police take him away because of racist laws. As he internalizes his stepfather's pronouncements that he's worthless, he becomes hardened and rejects his previous belief in God. He marries Elmarie (Leone Peinaar ) and the action jumps to 14 years later when he spends more time drinking than he spends with his wife and daughter Brigitte (Marie Cronje). Although he works at a school for the disabled and treats his students with compassion, his heart closes to his wife and he labors under a delusional blindness to his role in the failure of their marriage. When his wife and daughter bring him back to church, he breaks down and renews his faith in Jesus. He uses his faith and words of the Bible to comfort his suicidal disabled students but loses faith again when a traffic accident puts his daughter into a coma. Seeming miracles occur after he starts to pray again. A boy with a terrible disease dies a surprisingly peaceful death, God speaks to Leon, and Leon goes on to become a pastor to a small congregation.   

Is it any good?

This film addresses the age-old question: Why does God make bad things happen to good people? Naysayers rely on this to support the notion that God doesn't exist, or that God is cruel or that believers are fools. The faithful may find the answers offered here comforting: God never leaves us. Our trials are given to help us learn. But non-believers will find neither comfort nor satisfying explanations here. Henry, a young student who is paralyzed from the shoulders down, asks his teacher, Leon, to help him kill himself. Henry begs his teacher to leave the gate to the swimming pool open, but tearful Leon bucks Henry up with a story about the beautiful and strong arms and legs Henry will have after he dies and goes to heaven.

Logic lovers will be infuriated, but Born to Win isn't designed for anyone but the faithful. From that point of view, although Gregory Kriek seems far too old to play a college student, his performance as Leon is vivid and animated, and tears will be jerked from anyone with a pulse during scenes when he confronts a quadriplegic lamenting the limitations of his life and an amputee fearing no one will ever love her. The title of both the movie and the book it was based on suggests the metaphor that life is a competition that can, or should, be won. It's difficult to know what "winning" means here and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the competition can also be "lost." The deciding factor seems to be faith. For those who choose another path, this movie seems to say that you're out of luck.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the domestic abuse that affected Leon's life in Born to Win. His mother seems to want to protect Leon from her abusive husband, yet she chooses the husband over her small child. Why do you think abused women sometimes return to their abusers?

  • This is a faith-based movie. Do you need to share these beliefs to enjoy it? Why or why not?

  • Leon drinks too much alcohol and his addiction threatens his relationships with his wife and daughter. How do you think his childhood experiences might be connected to the drinking?

Movie details

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