Hearing Is Believing

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Hearing Is Believing Movie Poster Image
Docu spotlights blind, musically gifted young woman.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 104 minutes

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

Positive Messages

It's possible to overcome serious challenges and live life to the fullest. Having supportive, unselfish family members and a willing community ups the chances for success. Promotes making the most of one's talents and specialness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Real-life heroine is hard-working, passionate about her musical gifts, and unwilling to let being blind stand in the way of success. Selfless mom is devoted to her daughter, is rewarded for her love and diligence. Community organizations and agencies (i.e., Braille Institute) make substantial contributions to the lives of those they serve. Show biz celebrities portrayed are all generous and willing to embrace young talent. Ethnic diversity. 

Violence
Sex
Language

One use of "f--k."

Consumerism

Some musical instruments/equipment and music venues are identified.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer and wine in background of some social settings. Cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hearing Is Believing, a documentary feature film, showcases the bountiful talents of Rachel Flowers, blind since birth, who is a virtuoso pianist, guitarist, and composer. She also performs on flute, harp, and as a vocalist. In her early twenties as this movie is released, Rachel's lifelong dream, pursued with determination and courage, is on the verge of coming true. As shown here in solo concerts, performances in which she is teamed with an outstanding youth symphony, and in the company of other well-known musicians, it's clear that Rachel is making her presence felt. The young woman's joy and delight at her own accomplishments is a key element in the movie's through-line. The film gives prominence to Jeanie Flowers, Rachel's mom, who has always been a strong anchor for this challenged but gifted girl. A single use of the "f-word" mars what is otherwise an entirely wholesome look at the early years of a young woman of great promise. 

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What's the story?

In HEARING IS BELIEVING, filmmaker Lorenzo DeStephano documents the life, so far, of Rachel Flowers from her earliest years to her rising celebrity as a young woman in 2017. Struggling to survive, Rachel, a tiny premature baby, was born blind and blessed with extraordinary musical talent as well as an astute, devoted mom. DeStephano utilizes the Flowers family's home movies, personal recollections, and countless hours of following Rachel with his team to tell her story. The movie goes back and forth between THEN -- Rachel as a 4-year-old, playing classic music by ear with a flourish -- and NOW -- Rachel as a young woman, wowing audiences at solo concerts and in tandem with an array of celebrity musicians -- to bring Rachel's gifts to life. Along the way, some of the generous folks and organizations who have helped and inspired Rachel appear to sing her praises. Music, and there is plenty of it, ranges from classical to standards to improvisational jazz, and culminates in Rachel's uniquely modern compositions.

Is it any good?

Rachel Flowers improvisational musical gifts are given a matching improvisational style in this film, which celebrates both the accomplishments and the joy in an exceptional young woman's life. Hearing Is Believing is a solid movie. Audiences will be inspired and charmed by Rachel, and no matter if their musical tastes jibe with hers, hers is a talent to be admired. And her glee is nothing if not contagious. Highlights include a dynamic youth symphony performance of one of Rachel's musical compositions, a solo concert at a beautiful venue in Ojai, California, and a joint appearance with Dweezil Zappa at a Las Vegas night spot.

It misses, however, in some ways. It's too long and unstructured (Rachel's early educational and organizational experiences don't go anywhere), and despite that, gives short shrift to Rachel's emotional journey. Watch it for the music, Rachel's giggle, and to catch a glimpse of a very gifted young woman at the beginning of what will certainly be a formidable career. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movies like Hearing Is Believing impact audience members. What does it mean to be "inspired by" a movie? Can you think of a film/films that have motivated you in a very personal way? How?

  • What did you think about the one instance of the "f-word" in this movie? Do you think there a good reason for the filmmakers to include it, or did they err by leaving it in the movie, knowing it might limit young audiences? Do you think parents can/should overlook what is the only out-of-bounds language heard in an otherwise squeaky-clean film? How does your family make such a determination? 

  • Rachel's blindness presents a daunting challenge. What do you think are the most important qualities Rachel exhibited that helped her overcome that challenge? Obviously, the keenness of her other senses (particularly her hearing) accounts for some of her success, but what about her personal strengths? 

Movie details

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