A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Speak up and be heard, inspire others, and keep fighting against sexual violence, harassment, and rape culture. Work to change how the U.S. military conducts criminal charges and cases. Go public, use social media, and talk to newspapers to get the word out.
Positive Role Models
The Guillen sisters and mother fight for their murdered sister and daughter. They wrestle with depression, anxiety, and no promise of change. But they fight, protest, speak to countless politicians, and tirelessly work to change an unfair and corrupt military adjudicatory system that is entirely its own and separate from the normal civilian criminal justice system.
The Guillen family is Mexican American. Surrounding characters are of various races, but mainly White. Mention of anxiety and depression.
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Violence & Scariness
Sexual violence references. No grisly or gory images or recreations but many references to what happened to Vanessa Guillen. Other women and men share how they were sexually assaulted and/or raped, groomed, and abused. Others share stories of "pimp" sex rings that coerced women into having sex for money. The recounting of what happened to Vanessa Guillen includes how she was "hit in the head with a hammer," how her "body was cut up into pieces and then set of fire," and how the murderers buried her in "three different places." Guillen resisted her murderer's demands that she have "a threesome" with him. After escaping Fort Hood, he is later found, but then shoots himself and dies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A person talks about being in love with their fiancé before they were murdered.
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Sexual language -- often from a violent or coercive standpoint -- is heard.
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Products & Purchases
News organizations like CNN, FOX, NPR, and NBC and social media companies like Facebook are shown covering the Vanessa Guillen story.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A daughter mentions to her mother that she should "take her tranquilizer now."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that I Am Vanessa Guillen is a grim but well-made documentary about a woman in the U.S. military who was murdered by a superior officer at Fort Hood. There is violent detail about what happened to Vanessa, including how she was "hit in the head with a hammer," how her body was "cut into many pieces and set on fire." There are also several references to sexual assault, rape, abuse, grooming, and corruption. After their sister, Vanessa, goes missing, the Guillens begin calling Fort Hood for answers. But it takes the military two months before saying anything. Further, they knew Vanessa was murdered and who did it, but failed to arrest him. Later it is revealed that the murderer shot himself after initially fleeing Fort Hood. Despite these setbacks and other tales of institutionalized corruption and cover-ups, Vanessa's family show incredible perseverance and courage in seeking justice. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While this documentary is a bit long, sometimes lingering too much on side characters' backstories, the main message still feels incredibly important and vital. A lot of pain is shown in I Am Vanessa Guillen, but there is some encouraging progress shown by the end. Despite the conclusion not being perfect, it still shows how the tireless efforts of one family can make a huge impact. A tough watch, the docu doesn't hide from being direct, calling out the U.S. military and especially Fort Hood for their collusion in trying to cover-up dozens of cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, and murder.
After highlighting the failures within the U.S. military judicial system, the film decides to follow the Guillen family's efforts to make change at a congressional level. Unfortunately, by the time the end is reached, any sense of triumphant victory is cut short, made bittersweet by the extent of the U.S. military's corruption. The only gripe is that if the film had been more snappily presented, perhaps even more people would be aware of this case and its implications.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.