A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Forks over Knives is a 2011 documentary about a pair of doctors' research into the direct relationship between diet and health and how adopting what is, in essence, a vegan diet (although the word "vegan" is never used) produces profoundly positive benefits for the health of both individuals and the planet as a whole. For the more squeamish of any age, there are many close-up scenes of heart surgery, in which a chest is shown opened up and cholesterol is being removed from an artery. There also is a scene in which an older man discusses how he gets more erections since adopting the "whole foods, plant-based" diet. On the whole, this documentary manages to convey a great deal of complicated information in a simple way, shows the benefits of the diet being espoused without being negative, and manages to refute counterarguments and popularly held beliefs about food without being preachy or self-righteous.
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What's the story?
Although FORKS OVER KNIVES is the story of doctors Campbell and Esselstyn (T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.), whose groundbreaking research shows the direct relationship between heart disease, obesity, and diabetes with the overconsumption of animal products, it also shows through example and testimonials the positive benefits of adopting a "plant-based, whole foods" diet. Potentially dry medical research is conveyed in an entertaining and easy-to-understand manner, and popular ideas about the health benefits of dairy and meat products are challenged without the film coming across as preachy and self-righteous.
Is it any good?
This documentary effectively raises questions about what we're eating and how it's affecting the health of individuals and our planet. What separates Forks over Knives from so many other documentaries that encourage the adoption of what amounts to a vegan diet is that the arguments are framed positively instead of employing strident tones of guilt, shame, and self-righteousness. This movie shows the tremendous benefits for individuals who have adopted this diet for even a brief amount of time and discusses the positive impacts the diet can have on the planet as a whole if more people ate this way. This aspect of this documentary makes it something that even the most die-hard carnivore can watch without feeling alienated or harshly judged.
It's a neat trick, how they manage to avoid using the term "vegan" or in any of the Engine 2 books and food products that have emerged since this movie was made. But it seems like more of a testament to their attempts to make this dietary transition something easily attained by anyone, as "everyday people" constitute the bulk of the testimonials.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way information was conveyed in Forks over Knives. What were some of the ways in which the filmmakers presented information, made their arguments, and responded to counterarguments?
How did this film affect you? Did it convince you to change any of your dietary habits?
Many movies that discuss a lifestyle change of this magnitude use anger and condemnation to make their arguments. In what ways does this movie take a different approach?
- On DVD or streaming: August 30, 2011
- Cast: T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., Neal Barnard
- Director: Lee Fulkerson
- Studio: Virgil Films and Entertainment
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Some thematic elements and incidental smoking.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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