A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this slow-paced coming-of-age film set in 1977 rural Utah contains scenes of rifleplay, and features confrontations with a ferocious grizzly that will be tough to take for younger viewers. With some budding romance between tweens and an ongoing theme of racial prejudice, this story of growth, reckoning, and readjustment is best for tweens and older, and will give them an interesting look at rural life.
What's the story?
It is 1977 in Wayne County, Utah. After the death of his mother -- his war hero Indian father died in combat shortly before he was born -- 12-year-old Seth George (TJ Lowther) is sent to live with his grandparents on a ranch in rural Utah. HIs grandmother Neldra (Sandra Shotwell) is glad to have him, but his taciturn, hardworking, and stubborn grandfather Murdock (Michael Ansara) is cold to the son of the daughter he stopped speaking to after she married "outside of her race." Nonetheless he puts Seth to work doing chores, and after the passing of Seth's grandmother, the two must learn to get along. Seth must learn of his past as he embraces his new life as a budding "cowboy," and Murdock must learn to love his grandson and forsake the racism that ruined his immediate family.
Is it any good?
Even with daydream sequences of Wild West shootouts, and interactions with a ferocious grizzly, LONG ROAD HOME has a tendency to drag. It becomes bogged down with characters performing barnyard chores, planting flowers, and championing eternal verities like hard work. The acting isn't the best, some of the action (with the grizzly in particular) is farfetched, and most of the threads in the storyline should be predictable to anyone familiar with coming of age stories.
Nonetheless, the Utah setting is quite beautiful, and for those from that part of the country in particular looking for something family-friendly and wholesome that, at the same time, doesn't shy away from thorny issues like racism and growing up without your parents in a strange new land, Long Road Home could be a touching coming-of-age tale rooted in a rural Western culture too often overlooked in a genre usually more geared towards "hip teens" in urban or suburban settings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the chores Seth must learn to do each day and night as he readjusts to life on a ranch with his grandparents. How is this similar or different to the chores your family does each day and night? How is rural life usually depicted in movies and on television?
Murdock and Neldra don't own a television. How does this reflect their work ethic, the time and place in which they grew up, and how they choose to spend their time?
Murdock never spoke to his daughter again after she "married outside her race." How does Seth help him to understand and come to terms with the error of his thinking? Does this movie challenge or reinforce any stereotypes?
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