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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will learn about how people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities navigate life -- and what they need to thrive.
Focuses on the potential for people who have intellectual disabilities to live fulfilling, productive lives.
Positive Role Models
The three subjects all persevere and try very hard to overcome significant obstacles. Each has outstanding support from family members, professionals, and others.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the subjects, a 30-year-old man who has a long list of hopes for his budding romantic relationship, includes (down the line) "kissing" and (far down the line) "having sex."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Intelligent Lives is a gentle documentary about people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities (including autism, Down syndrome, and very low IQ) persevering and making the most of opportunities to live fulfilling lives. They encounter many challenges and difficulties, which might require explaining to younger viewers (which could be a good thing), including some tough issues of self-determination. The film focuses on three main subjects but also boasts the star power of Oscar winner Chris Cooper, who shares his own son's story. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The subjects of this documentary are undeniably inspiring, but the filmmaking is on the scattershot side, limiting the film's power. Intelligent Lives shares some of the positive outcomes that are possible when people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities get the right kind of support and opportunities. Naieer, Micah, and Naomie's stories are juxtaposed with history lessons from our (barbaric) recent past. Not all that long ago, people in their shoes might well have been relegated to institutions that were indistinguishable from prisons. Cooper tells how his own family was advised to put his son, Jesse, in an institution; instead, they fought for his inclusion in standard education programs, and he became a star student and poet.
But Intelligent Lives doesn't make specific recommendations beyond inclusion and awareness. It offers a link at the end of the film for more information, but within the movie itself you'll find few concrete details. Each subject has outstanding support; it's hard not to think that's pretty rare. Are there solutions we can pursue, laws we can urge our representatives to make? Are there success rates for given programs? Dramatically, the film lacks a driving narrative; threads are introduced and dropped. And so the film is ultimately somewhat unsatisfying, despite the subjects' involving stories. You certainly root for them; you just wish there was some beginning, middle, and end to the film that didn't leave you wondering what happened next.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Movies with Characters Who Have Learning and Attention Issues and Developmental Disabilities
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate