Brene Brown: The Call to Courage

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Brene Brown: The Call to Courage Movie Poster Image
Uneven docu about self-help guru has language.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 76 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

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

Positive Messages

You can't be brave without vulnerability. Everyone brave enough to take risks will fail, get kicked, fall down, and know heartbreak. But they will only live life fully, and possibly know joy and achievement, if they get out there in the arena and try. To love is to be vulnerable. It's so much easier to cause pain than to feel pain. Even if you fail, it's a win because you tried.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Brown supplies numerous examples of mistakes she's made, weaknesses she's given in to (swallowing her problems by binge-watching and eating peanut butter) but mostly she illustrates the best ways to respond to challenges with her own triumphs.


She calls the internet social media world the "cesspool of humanity," citing the cruelty and personal vitriol she's encountered from anonymous critics.


"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "pissed."


Brown has numerous books, online talks, and appearances available for sale and viewing.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Brene Brown: The Call to Courage features best-selling self-help author Brene Brown in an onstage talk to an adoring audience on her area of research and expertise, the role vulnerability plays in courage. Some teens may be mature enough to find her words inspiring, encouraging, and instructive. She discusses dealing with loss of loved ones, relationships, and swim meets, with generous peppering of language that includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "pissed." She calls the internet social media world the "cesspool of humanity," citing the cruelty and personal vitriol she's encountered from anonymous critics.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byThetimb1141 July 12, 2019

A talk that applies to all of us

A must watch, touching on a multiple, relevant issues of our modern day society in relation to being authentic, kind, and viewing all difficult topics through a... Continue reading
Adult Written byChristyLeeVanD April 25, 2019

Don't let a few cuss words turn you away.

Brené's message is powerful: To live the most full, authentic lives, to engage and connect with people in a real way, requires the courage to be vulnerable... Continue reading

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

What's the story?

As in her Ted Talk, Brene Brown stands on a stage and shares her wit, charm, and wisdom with an adoring audience in this taping of a 2019 live lecture. Although Brown's research spans the diverse fields of shame, empathy, courage, and vulnerability, BRENE BROWN: THE CALL TO COURAGE focuses on vulnerability as a prerequisite for courage, for achievement, for risk-taking, and ultimately for a joyous and fulfilling life. She argues against those who view vulnerability as weakness, and those who say they can do vulnerability "alone" (it requires exposure to other people and social or work situations) and those who consider it wimpy (there's no bravery without it, she explains). She tells several personal stories about mistakes she's made but mostly the stories illustrate the correct, productive response she's eventually chooses in difficult emotional situations. Notable advice she offers CEOs trying to address sexism, racism, and other biases in the workplace is to expect those difficult conversations to, at first, go badly because they will inevitably reveal prejudices and resentments, which is part of the process of minimizing prejudices. She claims to be an introvert, suggesting that giving public talks is her act of bravery (and therefore vulnerability). She speaks casually and that includes language -- "f--k," "s--t," "ass" -- that some parents might want reserved for only their oldest teens.

Is it any good?

This is a documentary best left for Brene Brown fans. What's annoying about Brown's glib, platitude-filled self-help presentation is the fuzziness of her message, which is odd given that she's a PhD. researcher who presumably has decades of data supporting her advice. Perhaps her message is clearer in her books. But on stage she says there's no courage without vulnerability, while the definition of courage is an ability to perform in the face of fear. It's not courageous to save someone from drowning unless you are afraid of the water and harm you might come to in the process. (Saving someone if you're not afraid is still great, just not courageous.)

The question arises: is fear the same thing as vulnerability? Not really. We might be afraid of losing our job but not feel vulnerable unless we are passed over for a promotion, which can cause shame and uncertainty about our ability. All that makes her entire message a bit misleading as portrayed in Brene Brown: The Call to Courage. Many popular writers and social observers offer similar, more cogent messages. Malcolm Gladwell reminds us that the highest achievers fail repeatedly and view failure as an ordinary part of the process of attaining high goals. Researcher Angela Duckworth uses the word "grit" to denote the choice to try again despite shame and failure rather than giving up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to face one's fears. What do you do to overcome your fears?

  • Why do you think Brown says that the ability to be brave cannot occur without vulnerability in Brene Brown: The Call to Courage?

  • Brown says that the bravest people are bound at times to lose, fail, and shame themselves, but that they should be proud of themselves for simply putting themselves out there. Can you think of any instances in which you did what you were afraid of?

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