A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Clearly positive messages about the value of education, hard work/perseverance, taking responsibility for your life and the consequences of your choices, and the dedication to achieve goals -- no matter how old you are. Gratitude is also a theme.
Positive Role Models
Follows three adult learners as they attempt to earn a high school diploma years after dropping out. All three are people of color and demonstrate extraordinary commitment. One, a former drug dealer, shows devotion to his daughter as a single father. Another, who's homeless and sleeps in her car or on friends' couches, works at a fast-food restaurant and later becomes politically active. The third, a woman in her 50s, refuses to give up even though she's repeatedly failed to pass a class that's particularly difficult for her. Teachers, administrators show commitment and dedication.
Violence & Scariness
Audiences learn that a family member of one of the main subjects has been shot; the shooting occurs off camera. The victim is shown in the hospital; he later describes the shooting and reveals a long line of fresh sutures on his torso.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the subjects flirts with and dates a man she meets at a bus stop. He remains in her life throughout the second part of the documentary, and they occasionally hug and kiss. He's supportive of her goal to graduate.
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The main characters often curse in frustration/exasperation: "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," etc. One person, who's African American, uses the "N" word twice.
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Products & Purchases
Brief appearances of consumer brands, but none stand out except for Arby's fast-food restaurant, where one person works. The Excel Center is run by Goodwill.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In one scene, camera zooms in on marijuana being rolled into a joint; several people at a party smoke it. All three main subjects frequently smoke tobacco cigarettes at home, during work breaks, in their car. On several occasions, people hold or drink beer. A person drinks directly from a liquor bottle at home.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Night School is an inspiring, sometimes gritty documentary about three students at the Excel Center in Indianapolis -- the country's only accredited high school for adults who want to graduate not with a GED, but with a full diploma. The film follows three of the school's adult learners as they overcome personal obstacles to finally earn their degree. The featured students deal with living near the poverty line, balancing work and school, trying to move past a criminal record, and learning challenges. There's strong language throughout, including two uses of the "N" word (said by an African American man), and several scenes of adults smoking cigarettes, drinking (but not to excess), and, on one occasion, rolling and smoking a joint. One disturbing scene takes place at a hospital, where a relative of one of the subjects is treated for gunshot wounds. With strong messages of gratitude and perseverance, the movie should spark a lot of conversation about public education, class, race, and how it's never too late to go after your dreams or attempt to fix past mistakes. 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 poignant, powerful documentary about three adult students hoping to finally graduate from high school is a reminder of the importance of education -- and second chances. Filmmaker Andrew Cohn directs mostly in a cinema verité-style, but there's an obvious narrative structure, and each of the three subjects follows his or her own up-and-down journey toward the much-needed diploma. Melissa, in particular, is a reminder of how time can slip by for a dropout faced with the reality of raising a child earlier than expected. The fact that, even in her 50s, she's ready, willing, and able to learn -- even after repeated challenges with math -- is a positive example for younger viewers who might be taking their education for granted.
Greg's story as a reformed ex-con is touching, not only because of how devoted he is to his adorable daughter but also because of how difficult it is for formerly incarcerated adults to move forward. There's a scene in which a counselor explains why something Greg wants to accomplish is nearly impossible; it's heartbreaking to watch. He, of all three adults, seems to have the biggest odds against him. As for Shynika, it's clear she's intelligent and capable, but she's constantly under financial stress that working shift after shift at a fast-food chain isn't going to completely alleviate. These are real people with real problems that the majority of viewers may not relate to. But everyone should be able to empathize with and cheer on these adult learners who are trying to accomplish what their younger selves couldn't.
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.