What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Rich Hill is a grim, unflinching, yet empathetic look at three boys living in poverty in a small Missouri town. The kids come from varied backgrounds, but they all face similar challenges, largely as the result of unstable family and financial conditions. Some of them are very angry about the hand that's been dealt to them, and they sometimes react violently, triggering fights that mostly take place off screen. Expect plenty of swearing, including kids who use "f--k" and other profanity, as well as a lot of smoking by both teens and adults. There's also drinking by adults and references to child molestation.
What's the story?
Andrew, Harley, and Appachey all live in RICH HILL, Missouri, a town so downtrodden that you have to wonder whether it's ever seen better days. The three boys, ages 12 to 15 at the start, haven't had too many themselves, their lives swallowed whole by poverty and neglect. Nobody rests easy, nobody wants for nothing, and the film allows them to air their troubles freely and in detail. For other kids their age, homework might be the biggest challenge of the day, but these young people must deal with incarceration, unemployed or pill-addled parents, and abuse. As the filmmakers follow them for the better part of a year, they reveal their hopes and heartbreaks, their stories bearing witness to a continuing cycle of poverty.
Is it any good?
Quietly powerful and deeply affecting, Rich Hill lets three boys bear witness to their difficult lives as they slowly open up and reveal the daily battle of their lives. Director Tracy Droz Tragos goes for the straightforward approach, allowing the boys to tell their own stories and eschewing overbearing narration or fancy data points. What we see is what we get, and what we get is a punch to the gut by reality.
It's sometimes difficult to sit through; prepare for heartache as people struggle to get through each day and find out how little is under their control. Just when you think one of them might catch a break, when something seems to be going right, everything takes a turn for the worse. We see Andrew's impressively upbeat attitude fade, while Appachey's not-always-under-control hostility threatens to hurt him. And Harley, the oldest of the group, gradually reveals the horrific event that broke his family, one from which it's unclear whether he'll ever recover. Rich Hill may be hard to watch, but it's important to do so.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Rich Hill's perspective on poverty and those who must grapple with it every day. Did you learn anything from watching? How could you act on what you learned?
What do you think about the kids in this film? How are their lives similar to each other? How are they like or unlike your own?
What do you think about Andrew's optimistic attitude? How does it change through the course of the film? How are Harley's sometimes violent reactions linked to his mother's crime? Why is she in prison?
How does poverty shape people's lives in the short and long term?