Letters to God

  • Review Date: August 23, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Heavy-handed tearjerker about faith, death, and friendship.
  • Review Date: August 23, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

Age(i)

2
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9
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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Tyler's faith is the ultimate message of this movie, which is the driving force of the story. His relationship with Brady, his postman, grows into something quite spiritual. Brady is basically "discipled" by Tyler, who considers it his greatest mission to share God's Good News with others. The consequences of drinking and driving are shown through the character of Brady, whose past alcohol abuse leads to divorce and losing custody of his son.

Positive role models

Tyler is an almost unrealistically positive role model. He doesn't struggle or rage against his imminent death. He is certain of his love for God, his love for his family, his place in Heaven when he dies. He's brave in the face of sickness and death, and it's quite moving to see. His mother is loving and generous and selfless. Although she lets down her guard and shows her anger at having to eventually bury her son, she is extremely supportive and patient.

Violence

No violence per se, but there are potentially disturbing scenes of a sick boy in a hospital bed or about to die. In one scene an upset man throws and kicks things around in his room, and in another scene a mother rages about having a dying son.

Sex

The mail carrier and Tyler's mom flirt with each other and give each other longing looks.

Language

Mild language includes "heck" and "stupid."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Brady discusses his past alcohol abuse and in one scene stares at a bottle of liquor. In flashbacks it's shown that he was in a DUI accident with his own son in the car.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sweet, tear-jerking drama deals with a dying boy who considers it his personal mission to spread his Christian beliefs to family, friends, and even strangers like his mail carrier. As with most faith-based films, families that aren't Christians may feel uncomfortable with the overt Evangelism highlighted in the movie, but if you don't mind a religiously- themed plot, then it's not a concern. What may be of concern is the fact that the child protagonist is dying and eventually passes away. But because of his strong faith in God and his afterlife in heaven, he is not afraid to die, and his death is portrayed gently and lovingly. There is no profanity, sexuality, or product placements, but there is some mention of alcoholism (specifically drinking and driving), the affects of divorce on a single parent, and a couple of brief scenes in which adults get quite upset and yell and/or trash their belongings. Overall, the message is to find faith even in the face of personal tragedy.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Tyler Doherty (Tanner Maguire) is a sweet and loving eight-year-old boy. He's also dying of cancer. Tyler decides to write LETTERS TO GOD which he places in his mailbox on a regular basis. The letters are picked up by their new postman, Brady (Jeffrey Johnson), who's struggling with alcoholism, divorce, and an ugly custody dispute. Confused by what to do with the letters -- but unwilling to just throw them away -- Brady contacts a local minister and begins to get to know Tyler, his loving mother Maddy (Robin Lively), teenage brother (Michael Christopher Bolten), and the other families along his daily route. As the troubled Brady deepens his friendship with the Dohertys, Tyler's faith inspires him to start believing in himself, but as Brady's personal crises start to mount, and Tyler's battle with cancer seems near the end, Brady must decide once and for all what to do with Tyler's letters.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This is not a subtle movie. The actual words "What would Jesus do?" are said, completely un-ironically, on several occasions. There is no doubt that this is a Christian movie with an evangelical message, and that in and of itself is not a problem. The problem is that the film (not the message) seems more like an expensive, well-acted Sunday School video to be shown to youth groups rather than a movie even non-Christians (who are, one would assume, the target audience) would enjoy. Even Fireproof went beyond its faith-based message to generally champion all marriages and remind couples that they need to work on their marriages to strengthen them. Letters to God, on the other hand, provides an almost saintly, dying protagonist who is so earnest, so devout in the face of death that it's touching but not exactly relatable. For that matter, not all non-believers are newly divorced drunks hitting bottom. 

In some ways, this movie is surprisingly better than expected -- the adult actors are quite good (Lively and Johnson especially). But it's the sick-child plot that's just too upsetting (and daresay manipulative) and "Hallmark special" sentimental to fully invest in throughout the film. Of course, just because you know he's going to die doesn't mean you won't get weepy when it actually happens, but you may want to punch the director in the face for turning a dying boy into an instrument for evangelizing. Like To Save a Life, it's just too much, too bogged down by the message to deliver as a film. For a much more nuanced message film, check out Alejandro Gomez Monteverde's Bella.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about facing death and personal tragedy. How does Tyler's optimism and personal faith help him through the last months of his life? How does his faith affect those around him?

  • How are the consequences of Brady's drinking handled? How does his alcohol abuse take a toll on his life, and how does he change because of his belief in God?

  • Why does Tyler's mother get upset at the mention of God? Why does she have trouble with the idea of faith? What changes her heart?
  • Do you think this movie is worth seeing if you're not a Christian? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 9, 2010
DVD release date:August 10, 2010
Cast:Jeffrey S.S. Johnson, Robyn Lively, Tanner Maguire
Director:David Nixon
Studio:Vivendi
Genre:Drama
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic material

This review of Letters to God was written by

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  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
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Teen, 14 years old Written byLittle Critic C... February 5, 2011
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

GREAT

I love this movie. I even saw some boys crying.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old December 19, 2010
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

perfect for kids

awesome movie that will make u cry
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bystarscore13 October 24, 2010
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

10+

good message, funny, sad. The mailman gets drunk and breaks stuff.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models

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