Chasing Grace

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Chasing Grace Movie Poster Image
Mature faith-based drama about death, grief, alcoholism.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Focuses on forgiveness even for what seems to be "unforgivable." Promotes honesty whatever the cost, open communication, and families working through crisis together. Spiritual content counts on religion and belief in God as critical to overcoming adversity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters undergo radical transformations as they learn the value of honesty to themselves and those around them, identify changes that must be made, and set out to make those changes. Kids must learn to accept parental frailties. Value of learning to forgive is stressed. Police officers are deceitful and do not uphold the law in some situations. The cast is ethnically diverse.

Violence

Guns and the threat of gun violence (including an accident involving a child) are significantly featured in several scenes. An off-camera death occurs. A police chase results in an offstage car accident. Several physical scuffles and fistfights, including two with a teen, result in bruising and minor injuries.

Sex
Language

"Ball-buster," "crap," "wanker."

Consumerism

Incidental identification of GMC trucks, Chevrolet, Panacea Coffee Co.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcoholism is a central story element. Characters drink throughout, get drunk, and alcohol abuse plays a role in several tragedies. A character smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chasing Grace begins with the death of a beloved little girl, the result of an alcohol-related gun accident (off camera). From there, the movie explores the heartrending aftermath: family secrets, alcohol abuse, and the emotional upheaval caused by anger, lies, and cover-ups. The dominating theme of the film is forgiveness: The words "To forgive is to set a prisoner free" appear on screen in the very first frame. The family at the center of the story is a religious one headed by a pastor dad and a deeply devout mom. Reconciling such unexpected tragedy with strong faith is part of the family's recovery. Alcohol and alcoholism dominate several subplots; characters drink, get drunk, pass out, and cause harm. There are some violent outbursts: fistfights and struggles that results in bloody wounds and bruising. Mature subject matter and the film's intensity make this best for teens and up.

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What's the story?

On a beautiful birthday party day in her own home, the safest of all places, Grace Matheson is accidentally killed in CHASING GRACE. A bright, endearing young child, Grace is the heart of her loving family's home. As a result, in addition to the family's terrible grief, the wrenching circumstances cause unbearable anger and blame. Grace's devoted mom, Angela (Ashlee Payne), and two older brothers -- a tween (Kevin Patrick Murphy) and a teen (a superb Rusty Martin) -- suffer, question, and act out in unexpected ways. The relationship between Grace's pastor dad Jonathan (Michael Joiner) and his brother (David Temple), already strained by events from the past, is shattered. Local police involvement and family members' continued misdeeds result in further inevitable upheaval. And throughout, alcoholism affects everyone.

Is it any good?

Well-intentioned messages about grief, faith, forgiveness, and alcoholism fall victim to too much fragmented plotting and underserved characters. Director and writer David Temple has a knack for creating beautiful visuals, moves his camera effectively, and elicits some fine performances (Ashlee Payne and Rusty Martin are notable). However, by trying to explore an overabundance of issues, he loses focus. Dealing with grief, alcoholism, and failure to accept responsibility for one's actions are center stage here. But they're competing with long-hidden family secrets, sibling rivalry, depression, police misconduct, job loss, and more. As a result, issues are raised, then quickly dropped or supplanted by others (i.e., Angela erupts in righteous anger at her husband, then the next scene finds them happily sharing a restaurant meal). An earnest effort, but messy. OK for teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gun safety as it relates to this film. Was Grace's death really an accident? Was it preventable? How could this tragic event have been prevented?

  • Drinking and drinking to excess are often portrayed comically in films, resulting in lots of laughs (i.e., The Hangover, Arthur). How does a movie like this one change or add to an audience's understanding of the truth about alcohol abuse? How can one reconcile the two approaches to the subject matter and make good decisions?

  • What is the meaning of the quote "To forgive is to set a prisoner free"? Who is/are the prisoner(s) in this movie?

Movie details

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