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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Emphasizes power of perseverance and teamwork. Strong faith-based messages, primarily: "When God calls us, he also equips us with what we need." Also a faith-based message of inclusiveness: "God uses unusual people and unusual methods to accomplish his work."
Positive Role Models
Many people put themselves at risk to help reunite a family and do what's best to keep children safe while they're separated from their parents. A woman stays strong and resilient, despite years of horrific abuse, for her family's sake.
International story involving characters from several countries. A Ukrainian family is put in danger and finds safe harbor in Armenia. In Amsterdam, a Black nurse is portrayed positively. A global team of pastors and missionaries works together to pull off the impossible. A woman shows amazing tenacity. But a central female character is portrayed one-dimensionally, especially in comparison to a central male character. Questionable jokes about masculinity: One male pastor ribs another who cries tears of joy; a missionary character seems to be leaning into clichéd portrayals of gay men.
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Violence & Scariness
Guns used to threaten and kill. Beatings. Domestic violence. Intense peril. The plot is about a mother who's abducted and abused by sex traffickers for several years, but that's not said or seen explicitly. Family separation. Children are locked away in a small structure for years.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Negative characters smoke and drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pursuit of Freedom is a faith-based drama set in Eastern Europe and based on the true story of a mother's perseverance. The subject matter is mature: A criminal's wife is kidnapped and sex-trafficked for three years. She's repeatedly beaten on camera; no sexual activity is shown, but the fact that she has been taken to Amsterdam's red-light district implies what's going on. Characters aren't particularly nuanced: They're either saints or straight-up villains who smoke, drink, gamble, and are heartlessly violent, beating people indiscriminately and shooting the elderly. Heroes do risk their own safety and well-being for the sake of saving children who are in grave danger, and the story emphasizes the power of perseverance and teamwork. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Anna's triumphant story is incredible, but subpar filmmaking sinks this well-intentioned drama. Viewers are told it's based on a true story, and elements suggest that the events it depicts are like modern-day miracles. Movies can be a great way for faith-based filmmakers to spread "the word," whether it's about the power of God or the power of our own inner strength. But attempting to turn someone's trauma into entertainment is a huge responsibility: If it's not good, you risk causing further injury. Unfortunately, Pursuit of Freedom is another indignity to Anna and her family, wherever they might be.
Writer-director George A. Johnson's script is poorly written. For starters, while male hero Bedros (Stelio Savante) has a multifaceted character, Anna has one dimension: She's a mother. And while reuniting with her family is the purpose of the film, nearly every sentence spoken by Anna is about her kids. Koloian says the words "my children" in an over-the-top Ukrainian accent so frequently that if this was a bigger release, it would undoubtedly become a meme -- and that's where bad writing becomes reckless. (Exhibit A: 1988's A Cry in the Dark, based on an Australian family's tragedy, where a line about an actual horrific event became the viral punchline "A dingo ate my baby!") Also, there's clearly nothing funny about sex trafficking and children being held in a shack for three years, fearing for their lives. But Johnson tries to lighten things up by including (questionable) jokes about masculinity: One male pastor ribs another who cries tears of joy, and there's a missionary character who seems to be leaning into clichéd portrayals of gay men. It's tonally bizarre and a strange juxtaposition in a movie about a woman who's been so horribly abused by men. Anna, her family, and other trafficking victims deserve better.
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.