I Am David

Movie review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
I Am David Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Beautiful, gentle adaptation of classic novel.
  • PG
  • 2005
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

David learns that the advice he's given to "trust no one" is inaccurate, that there are many kind people in the world. After a lifetime in a prison camp, David believes that life isn't worth living, but by escaping, learns that while life is extremely difficult, it's also filled with moments of beauty and goodness. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No direct positive role models. 

Violence

Political prisoners in a work camp are shown being shoved and beaten. A flashback scene shows a man getting shot and killed in the prison, because it's believed that he stole a bar of soap. Protesters clash with police. David is given a bloody nose by an older boy, who later apologizes. Some peril -- a mother is shown being taken away from a prison camp by the guards while she screams for her son. 

Sex

While hiding as a stowaway, a sailor accuses David of looking at the magazines of attractive women that the sailor keeps hidden; no nudity. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A guard smokes. Lead character delivers bottles of wine to a party. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am David is a 2003 drama in which a young boy escapes from a Bulgarian prison camp in the 1950s on a quest to deliver a letter to Denmark. This movie is intense but family-friendly. Sensitive and younger kids might be disturbed by beatings and a shooting at the labor camp, including flashbacks in which a man is shot and killed because he's believed to have stolen a bar of soap, and a mother yelling for her son as guards separate her from her family. A clash between Italian communists and police is shown; some beatings and blood. Based on a novel of the same title by Anne Holm. While hiding as a stowaway, a sailor accuses David of looking at the magazines of attractive women that the sailor keeps hidden; no nudity. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJeremy O. February 1, 2018

For early adolescents (12-15/16?)

Set in post world war 2 times, it tells a story of a 12 year old boys journey from a concentration camp to various parts Europe.
recommend this for age 12 and... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 and 11-year-old Written bypracticepatience May 10, 2010

just right for boys/kids who want adventure in their stories...

My family loved this movie and watched it twice in the same day. It is so well done.

Now, we never read the book; we recommended the movie to a family that... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old May 23, 2013

I AM DAVID REALLY PLEASES

beautiful, just beautiful I saw this movie in school. My class teacher put it on for us, we had just finished the book. And my god what a movie, when it was ove... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byChristianHistoryFan June 28, 2012

Movie Amazing

Although I liked the book better, this movie was superb. Note the beginning is a little cheesy, but the latter half (Sophie and onward) was absolutely amazing a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Adapted from Ann Holm's book, I AM DAVID follows the story of the titular David, who grows up in a Bulgarian labor camp in the 1950s. He doesn't know why he's there or what happened to his family, of whom he has only flashes of memory. At the age of 12 an escape is arranged for him (by whom and for what reasons are only revealed near the end of the movie), and he's told to make his way alone across the frontier with Greece, south to Salonika, stow away in a boat headed for Italy, and then head north to Denmark. David travels alone through a world he has never experienced, following the only advice he was given: "Trust no one." Along the way, as he evades capture, meets people, and begins to understand how the world works, his past is revealed in rapid flashbacks of memory, centering on a pivotal event in the camp, more and more details of which are revealed as the movie progresses.

Is it any good?

This is a lovely movie, beautifully filmed by Paul Feig in locations throughout Europe. The real problem faced by anyone trying to adapt this book is finding a boy who can carry it off, and newcomer Ben Tibber portrays David with a heartbreakingly bleak and lonely nobility. He actually has few lines, so he accomplishes this primarily through posture and a remarkably readable face. Jim Caviezel does sterling work as Johannes, the only friend David has ever had; and Joan Plowright is warmly touching as Sophie, an elderly artist David meets along the way. Feig, who also wrote the script, partially solves a central flaw in the book (where the plot turns on a huge and unlikely Dickensian coincidence) by turning it into a smaller, but still unlikely, coincidence.

But the movie is not without its own flaws, chief among them its too-short length (90 minutes), which leaves too much unexplained or missing entirely. The DVD contains many deleted scenes that should have been left in. Nevertheless, this is a thoughtful, intellectually and emotionally rich, and gently beautiful movie that, while aimed at kids, doesn't for one moment condescend to them. It's a solid and moving attempt at filming a wonderful but almost unfilmable classic children's book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about theCommunist Bloc in the '50s, forced labor camps in eastern Europe after WWII, the plight of refugees, and following David's route on a map. The DVD provides helpful extras, including a map of David's route and information about real-life modern child refugees. Families can also talk about the DVD's extras, including a map of David's route and information about real-life modern child refugees.

  • This movie was based on a novel. What would be the challenges in adapting a novel such as this one into a movie? 

  • How does this compare to other "travel movies," movies in which lead characters go on a journey from Point A to Point B, encounter a wide array of people, and have experiences that fundamentally change their worldview? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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