Parents' Guide to

Foster Boy

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Sentimental courtroom drama about foster-care corruption.

Movie NR 2020 109 minutes
Foster Boy Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

Not for young kids carrying PTSD

I work with sexually and other abused high-school aged foster youth students at UCLA. We have shown it to several audiences of foster youth. It does have accurate scenes of abuse and neglect that could be triggering for young students, say under a maturity age of 14. But it is enormously EMPOWERING for ages 14 and older. One of our students said the film is the first time they ever felt heard. It is a valuable contribution to #fixfostercare You can get a good preview at

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This legal drama veers into soapy territory as it explores the abuse, negligence, and corruption involved in a system supposedly designed to keep kids safe. Although at first glance the Shaquille O'Neal-produced Foster Boy looks like a standard-issue White-savior film, it gives Jamal just enough agency to skirt that designation (the focus on courtroom proceedings over interpersonal drama also helps). Michael isn't a stereotypically lionized "man of principle" who swoops in to save Jamal like Atticus Finch, and Jamal isn't full of truths that teach Michael about life. The movie does tell the story from the White lawyer's perspective due to the screenwriter's own experiences as a White lawyer taking on the foster care system. Some aspects feel a bit over-the-top, particularly when the company starts using Big Brother-like tactics to intimidate Jamal and Michael. And it's obvious from the get-go that the private foster care agency is capital-E Evil. Those details make Foster Boy feel like it's more about a lawyer and his client fighting corporate malfeasance than about the power dynamic between a Black client and his White attorney.

Race and racism are still major themes, particularly in the sense of portraying how easily a White-dominated society and justice system look at Black men and see criminals. Predictably, Michael starts the movie prejudiced and unmoved by Jamal's claims ... until the agency starts revealing its true motivation: profit at the expense of the children they're entrusted to place in safe homes. Modine is suited for his part, and McGhie gives a nuanced, powerful performance as a survivor of emotional abuse who wants someone to be accountable for what he never should have had to endure. As a smart, observant judge, Gossett Jr. will remind audiences that his gravitas is worthy of much more than a supporting role. While this film isn't likely to be confused with "crusader" courtroom dramas like Erin Brockovich or Primal Fear, it's a story that will make audiences want to dig deeper into the sad state of foster care in the United States.

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