Saints & Strangers

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Saints & Strangers Movie Poster Image
Intense Pilgrim docudrama has violence, strong language.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 192 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Christianity, conquest, colonialism, and survival all play roles in the events that transpire.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People turn on each other for power, survival.

Violence

Illness, deaths, attacks, poisoning, stabbings. Bloody remains, severed heads.

Sex

A woman gives birth (no nudity).

Language

"Hell," "damn," "bitch," "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer is a staple.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saints & Strangers is a historical docudrama about the establishment of Plymouth Colony. It features lots of violence, including vicious assaults, bloody stabbings, and images of gruesome human remains. The language is strong ("hell," "bitch," "bastard"), and death, illness, and the ethics of colonialism are major themes. Teens who like history will find it worth the watch, but it's a bit strong for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

SAINTS & STRANGERS is a docudrama about the events during and after the voyage of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to the New World. It shows the efforts of the cargo ship's passengers, including William Bradford (Vincent Kartheiser), John Carver (Ron Livingston), Myles Standish (Michael Jibson), John Billington (Brian F. O'Byrne), Edward Winslow (Barry Sloane), and Steven Hopkins (Ray Stevenson), to keep themselves and their families, including Dorothy Bradford (Anna Camp) and Elizabeth Hopkins (Natascha McElhone), alive in order to establish a British colony in Virginia. But when the ship lands on the coast of what is now known as Massachusetts, they face starvation, illness, and native tribes, including the Wampanoag, the Narraganset, and the Nauset, that can't agree on how to contend with their arrival. As Massasoit Osamequin, Yellow Feather (Raoul Trujillo), and his prize warrior Hobbamock (Tatanka Means) attempt to establish peaceful relations with the English settlers with the help of their Patuxet translator, Squanto (Kalani Queypo), the Pilgrims and the Native Americans struggle to understand each other and to establish the balance of power between them.

Is it any good?

This intense, dramatic miniseries portrays the historic settlement of Plymouth Colony and the conflicts it created. It highlights the differences among members of the Pilgrim community, which ranged from those evading religious persecution to those traveling to the New World to seek their fortunes. As is the case with most Pilgrim-themed tales, it also offers a reenactment of the day the colonists gave thanks to the natives for their help, and it attempts to do so in a way that avoids judgment and caricature-like representations.

Nonetheless, some will find it difficult not to bristle at the way in which the settlers exercised religious and British doctrine as they claim the land as their own. Others may find the depiction of Native Americans, particularly that of the Wampanoag, to be exploitative. But the overall series offers an underlying narrative that highlights the moral and ethical aspects of colonialism, which inevitably lead to cultural misunderstandings and violent power struggles. It's an interesting interpretation of early American history and one that history fans will find entertaining.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about American and Native American history. Did you know that the Algonquin word "Massasoit" is a title, such as "chief" or "king"? Why is it often referred to as a name or tribe? 

  • How do we know that the stories we usually learn in school and in American folklore about American colonial history are accurate? Do Native Americans have to tell a different version? What do you think the first Thanksgiving was like?

  • What kinds of stereotypes did the Pilgrims and other European settlers have about Native Americans? Where did these characterizations come from? Do these generalizations affect the way we think about Native American nations today? 

Movie details

For kids who love history

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