Midsummer in Newtown

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Midsummer in Newtown Movie Poster Image
Humble, heartfelt documentary about healing after tragedy.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 81 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Though the people of Newtown don't really have any answers for what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, they seem to have begun coping in a healthy way, channeling their energies into helping others and creative outlets. Discussion of the power of faith.

Positive role models & representations

While many of the members of this community are heroically moving forward and dealing with their grief in positive ways, no individual role models emerge; rather, it's the portrait of a community that comes across.

Violence

Nothing violent shown, but there are descriptions of the mass shooting that left 20 children and 6 adults dead. These descriptions aren't bloody in nature but are disturbing and upsetting nonetheless.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Midsummer in Newtown is a documentary about a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream that's mounted in the wake of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. No violence is shown, but the terrible shootings are discussed and remembered -- not in a gory way but in a powerful, emotional way. And although there's no graphic sex, language, or drug/alcohol use, anyone who watches should be old enough to confront the horrific tragedy of what happened in Newtown.

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What's the story?

In MIDSUMMER IN NEWTOWN, the community of Newtown, Connecticut, is still recovering from the brutal Dec. 14, 2012, murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the wake of the tragedy, director Michael Unger and NewArts decide to put on a musical version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with some Sandy Hook kids in their cast. Young performers like Tain Gregory and Sammy Vertucci seem to find their true selves on stage, working out problems and accomplishing goals like never before. Meanwhile, jazz musician Jimmy Greene and his wife, Nelba Márquez-Greene, remember their lost daughter, Ana, and other parents tell harrowing stories of that horrible day.

Is it any good?

Though it's not exactly cutting-edge journalism or thought-provoking commentary, this deeply moving documentary takes a tender, humble approach to a community's suffering and its attempts at healing. Midsummer in Newtown doesn't try to shock with gory details or bloody reenactments of the shooting; whenever it's discussed, it's done so discreetly. One parent mentions the name of the shooter, but she does so while wondering about his suffering and voicing her hopes of preventing the suffering of future children.

Director Lloyd Kramer has good luck with the plucky young performers he chooses to highlight; they almost literally blossom while on stage (and on camera) -- and when the show is over, their sadness is palpable. The movie also follows Grammy-nominated jazz musician Greene as he works out the grief over his lost daughter through music, while his wife, Márquez-Greene, turns to public speaking and activism. Although the film seriously overdoes the treacly piano music, this is a winning, heartwarming, hopeful achievement. Nevertheless, the horrific nature of the subject matter alone is probably too much for younger viewers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what happened at Sandy Hook. How does Midsummer in Newtown deal with what happened? Does it seem like too much? Just right? How would you go about talking about this tragedy with kids?

  • Which is more upsetting to you -- seeing violent acts take place on screen or hearing people talk about them? Why?

  • The theater director says he knows that he can't make any families whole again with his play, but what does it accomplish for the community? Have you seen art function in other powerful ways?

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