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Lift Me Up
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lift Me Up is a 2015 movie that examines the challenges a teenage girl and her new stepfather face when her mother dies after only a few months of marriage. The movie features a grief support group and the guilt and sorrow that often arise after the death of a loved one. A boy kisses a girl. Off screen, a woman dies in a car accident. A high school student is bullied and in frustration slaps the bully. The bully can't control her temper and screams at her school principal. Teenagers seem to drink at a party.
What's the story?
Although John (Todd Cahoon) had known and loved his wife Sarah for most of his life, they married late. LIFT ME UP begins after her death, just a few months into their marriage. John is grieving but also fiercely committed to caring for Sarah's inconsolable and unhappy teenage daughter, Emma (Sarah Frangenberg). The plot follows the ups and downs of that relationship as the two try to recover from their grief and create a mutually supportive relationship. As a disciplined Marine, John sets rules, some reasonable, some understandably over-protective: he asks that Emma put down her cell phone for meals. He demands she never get in a car with unapproved drivers, a sensitive subject after his wife died in a car crash. Emma must wear a helmet and reflective vest when bike riding at night. He also insists Emma return to dancing, the great passion she seems to have abandoned in her grief. He tries to cope with his loss at grief counseling group sessions, which slowly help him acknowledge his pain. Three nasty girls at school set Emma up for humiliation at a party. Her best friend, Stephen (Shane Harper), drives her home, against the rules, causing friction that prompts Emma to rebelliously move to her biological father's home. She quickly recognizes that her real dad couldn't care less about her, prompting her to return to her loving stepdad and her beloved dancing with a new, more optimistic and forgiving attitude.
Is it any good?
This movie takes a good hour to shake off the clichés of family drama and blossom into a moving depiction of recovery from loss. When Emma recognizes that a biological father can care far less for his child than a committed stepfather, she seems to break through to a higher level of maturity and understanding that will be healthy and sustaining for her. When the straitlaced Marine John finally breaks down in the arms of his grief counseling group members, the movie achieves a breakthrough, too. Performances by Cahoon, Frangenberg, and the supporting cast are solid and involving and, with language no stronger than "butt," Lift Me Up might be a movie parents and teenagers would want to watch together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficulty of coping with grief after the death of a loved one like Emma does in Lift Me Up.
Emma's biological father doesn't act like a father. Unlike her stepfather, he doesn't care for her, worry about her safety, or set any rules. What are some other things parents do to care for their children? Do you think his exaggerated selfishness is meant to underscore how much sacrifice and generosity bare minimal parenting requires?
John is a stoic Marine who doesn't express feelings of sadness about the death of his wife until his stepdaughter leaves him, too. Do you think acknowledging such painful feelings can be helpful in recovering from loss?