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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The mail carrier and Tyler's mom flirt with each other and give each other longing looks.
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Mild language includes "heck" and "stupid."
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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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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.