Susie's Hope

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Susie's Hope Movie Poster Image
Inspiring true-life tale of abused pup has graphic images.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 105 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Strongly promotes compassion for abused and neglected animals; shows how one family's efforts resulted in changing a state law regarding animal cruelty. Values strong family bonds and friendships. Additional themes include courage, perseverance, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two real-life heroines commit themselves to saving, caring for, and making a home for a badly abused dog. They are tenacious, warmhearted, and unselfish throughout. A reluctant husband learns the value of his wife's commitment and passion, and he too becomes a champion for abused animals. Ethnic diversity: African-American characters include the real-life dedicated veterinarian and humane judge as well as the man who committed the crime.

Violence

Two brutal attacks are portrayed: A pit bull attacks a pregnant woman. A puppy is beaten and set on fire. In both these instances, care is taken not to show too much of the actual violence. Shots of the attacks (bared teeth, fierce biting and clawing, flames appearing to engulf the puppy), as well as flashbacks to the events, are brief. However, the aftermath and the injuries are shown in numerous disturbing scenes. The woman is bloody and badly injured. The canine victim is seen badly burned, ears gone, maggots crawling through the open wounds; graphic depiction of some of the puppy's treatment.

Sex
Language

"Hell."

Consumerism

During the final credits, an appeal is made for donations to a charity created by Susie's adoptive family.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Susie's Hope is a dramatization of actual events in North Carolina that led to the 2010 enactment of stronger state laws against animal abuse. The story is told in very personal terms and includes some graphic images of a severely burned and broken puppy, along with up-close visuals of the medical procedures that saved her life. Additionally, a pit bull attack on the human heroine of the piece is shown in brief sequences as it occurred and later in flashbacks. All these images (including several shots of maggots being extracted from the puppy's wounds) may be disturbing to kids and/or adults of any age. The messages delivered are substantial, illustrating how one horrific crime can become a positive motivator in our political system with long-lasting effects for all. There is a religious component to the story; the family who adopted Susie has strong Christian beliefs.

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What's the story?

SUSIE'S HOPE tells the true story of a severely abused puppy and the people who rescue her. Not long after the pregnant Donna Lawrence (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is attacked by a neglected pit bull that she has been trying to care for, she and her closest friend, Ramona Hodges (Andrea Powell), find what appears to be the body of a badly burned and injured puppy in a local park. When the puppy moves and cries, Donna and Ramona take responsibility for getting the heartbreaking little animal immediate help. The local animal shelter, headed by a sympathetic vet (Willette Thompson), completely commits to saving the puppy's life. But it will be a costly endeavor, and Donna, surprised at herself, takes on that task as well; she'll raise the money somehow. Given the fact that Donna's earlier attack ended both her pregnancy and any chance of further carrying a child, conflict arises in the Lawrence household when it's determined that the puppy, now named Susie, is part pit bull. Roy Lawrence (Burgess Jenkins) is both frightened and reluctant to agree with Donna's plan to adopt Susie. Donna, always supported by Ramona and buoyed by her faith in God, risks her husband's feelings and her sense of safety to fight for Susie ... by saving the puppy's life, finding her abuser, and challenging the existing North Carolina law that would let him get off scot-free.

Is it any good?

Earnest and committed to telling the real story, this low-budget effort is inspirational and moving but sometimes difficult to watch due to the graphic nature of Susie's injuries and treatment. Performances are mostly solid, with special kudos to some of the supporting players who it appears felt a deep commitment to the project. Fortunately, the outcomes were all good; the perpetrator was punished, laws were changed, and Susie, at the film's DVD release date, is living life to the fullest with the Lawrence family. Still, it's not a "pretty" story. Susie's Hope is best for mature kids and adults who can deal with some of the stronger images of wounds and medical procedures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the U.S. political system can be influenced by one specific event, like was described in Susie's Hope. Which steps did the Lawrence family take to ultimately turn Susie's tragic life into a decisive win for other animals?

  • For what reasons do you think the filmmakers chose to include some of the more graphic visuals of Susie's injuries and treatment? Were they successful in building your sympathy and understanding of what was at stake? Did those scenes ever become easier to watch? Why, or why not?

  • The Lawrences had a strong commitment to making Susie's awful journey change the rules. What cause or belief do you feel passionately about? Does watching this film inspire you to take action?

  • How does Susie's Hope promote compassion and empathy? What about courage and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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