A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love knows no boundaries. Kindness and care enrich the giver as much as the recipient. Plotlines about racism illustrate how harmful it can be, are sympathetic to its victims. Themes also include courage, perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Jo is mistreated, abused due to his mixed-race heritage. Dr. Lawrence is a kindly man who loves Jo just as he is; Jo is a heroic character who behaves nobly. Several other characters are rather flat villains, and Grace doesn't have much to do in her role. A man tells a boy that the prettier a girl is, the crazier she is.
Violence & Scariness
Characters die in non-gory but sometimes violent ways; their dead bodies can be seen (they look mostly uninjured). A character takes poison after he's financially ruined and begs to be allowed to die (he doesn't); another character calls his actions an "honorable suicide." A man slaps a young boy who steals a dumpling; another man knocks a man out so he can treat the second man's ailing wife. A young boy loses his mother, is seen mourning next to her body.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters kiss briefly, exchange longing glances. A man wants to marry a young woman for her money, while her family hopes he's rich and can support them.
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Cursing is infrequent and includes "hell," "damn," and "bastard." Lots of language concerning race and class: "half-breed," "haole," "Orientals," "Jap," "country doctor," "backwoods country hick," "Nip-lovers."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character smokes cigarettes frequently. Another smokes cigars and drives a car filled with liquor bottles, presumably drinking while he drives; out of the car, he sneaks drinks from a flask. One character is referred to as "guzzling gin"; she also drinks from a flask. A teen is given alcohol by an adult and then challenges his authority figure.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Running for Grace is a drama set in 1920s Hawaii about a wrong-side-of-the-tracks boy who romances a rich girl. The movie includes lots of period-accurate racism and classism, though its sympathies are clearly with the downtrodden. A boy is slapped and despised for his biracial heritage, and he's called things like "half-breed." His (white) guardian is called things like a "country doctor" and "backwoods country hick." People of color are also called "Jap," "Nip," and "Orientals," and nonnative Hawaiians are called "haoles." Race also figures in the movie's most upsetting scene: A Japanese man attempts to poison himself after financial ruin, something that a character calls an "honorable suicide." Other characters die suddenly and violently; viewers see their relatives mourning them and their (non-gory) dead bodies. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink; one character drinks while driving and gives alcohol to a teen. Cursing is infrequent and mild ("damn," "hell," "bastard"), and sexual content is limited to significant looks and a single kiss. The movie offers clear messages about the evils of racism, as well as the transcendent power of love and the importance of courage, perseverance, kindness, and care. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Sweet but slow-moving and clichéd, this tale of forbidden love in plantation-era Hawaii isn't without appealing qualities -- chiefly, a strong cast and positively gorgeous shots of the island setting. The main problem is the weakness of the love story holding Running for Grace together. Yes, Grace and Jo are both young and attractive. It's easy to see why they're interested in each other. But although they exchange plenty of loaded glances, they've barely spoken 10 words to each other by the time they embrace for the hackneyed happy-ending kiss that's supposedly so moving that the whole cast bursts into tears.
The rest of the plot is no less subtle: Every twist and character reveal is telegraphed ages in advance. It's clear from our first sight of Dr. Reyes that he's a baddie who's Up to Something; he might as well be twiddling his mustache when he casts his gimlet eye on Grace. (Who, by the way, is given very little to do besides sit on a bed gazing at Jo with her blonde hair angelically lit.) It's hard to root against a story about a despised outsider who triumphs against all odds through heroic actions, and this movie does have its heart in the right place. But, like Grace's underwritten role, it's beautiful -- and insubstantial.
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.