Sensitive girls-in-prison movie showcases redemption.
  • Review Date: April 22, 2012
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 94 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film doesn't glamorize violence or crime but instead gives a gritty picture of the penalties that criminals suffer. There's a message of redemption, too; people can overcome their pasts. The way connections between humans can heal is explored deeply, with realistic, layered characters.

Positive role models

D.J. is a caring and compassionate mentor to vulnerable young women. The young women offer a nuanced picture of youth offenders.


A few non-graphic fights; a pair of criminals flees from a robbery, and some of the fires the prison team fights are a little scary -- but there's no blood or guns on screen. One character has cigarette burns on her arm, the legacy of (off-screen) abuse. A gun is shown briefly.


Boyfriends and girlfriends are mentioned; a husband and wife are shown in bed kissing.


Insults are sometimes exchanged.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drugs are mentioned once during a recitation of detention center rules.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Firelight is a sensitive made-for-TV movie that explores the possibility for redemption among a group of girls confined to a detention center. The inmates are racially diverse and realistic without being scary and/or sexualized as is typical for "women in prison" movies. (In other words, no cat fights.) There's some mention of past crimes and abuse, as well as a scene with a married couple in bed kissing. Some of the firefighting scenes are a bit scary.

What's the story?

Caroline (Q'Orianka Kilcher) commits a robbery with her boyfriend, and they're both nabbed by police. Since she's not yet 18, Caroline winds up in a detention center with other teens and young women, under lockdown and the benevolent care of D.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the detention center's head counselor. D.J. sees possibilities in Caroline, who, despite her troubled past and near-mute facade, is smart, creative, and hungry for love. Slowly, with the help of a group of inmates involved in a firefighting training program, D.J. reaches Caroline and shows her that she has both a future and people who care whether she makes it there.

Is it any good?


FIRELIGHT hearkens back to the days when networks competed with each other to unleash big movie events. Since then, made-for-TV movies have sunk to the Sharktopus level. This is something else again. Every single character in Firelight is granted dignity, even the villains, and the main characters mess up, then try, then mess up again, and try again. It's all so triumphant that you might hear the Rocky theme playing in your head when Caroline drops her bad attitude and picks up a firehose instead.

Firelight could have gone wrong in so many ways, turning nasty/sexy like Sucker Punch or preachy like Lean on Me. Instead, it's deeply moving, grim at times without being overly scary, and, ultimately, uplifting.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Caroline committed the crime that led to her being sent to the detention center. Why do people commit crimes? What is the movie's message about criminality?

  • Do you think Firelight is a realistic portrait of what it's like to be in a detention center with young criminals? Why or why not? How does what the characters wear, do, and say contribute to your opinion?

  • What aspect of the detention center was most off-putting? Confinement? Isolation? The hostility from the other inmates? Something else?

Movie details

DVD release date:April 28, 2012
Cast:Cuba Gooding Jr., Q'Orianka Kilcher
Director:Darnell Martin
Studio:Hallmark Entertainment
Run time:94 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Firelight was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 14 year old Written bymumu June 17, 2013

Great movie for teens

This was a really good movie and my 13 year old daughter loved it. Encourages understanding and compassion for those whose lives take a wrong turn; contains inspiring messages about being responsible for yourself and getting second chances; tells some cautionary tales about how stupid mistakes can derail your life.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byHazeJW May 1, 2012

One of my fav movies!

I watched this with my step dad and I loved it. It's really good. Lots of lessons. The ending sucked though.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Educator Written byMoe April 27, 2012

A Good Teaching Moment

It is a goodmovie. Sometimes a small error in judgement can cost plenty. Think before you act. Positive role models in the Detention System as well as very negative one displayed by gang members.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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