That's What I Am

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
That's What I Am Movie Poster Image
Message movie about tolerance has a few mature themes.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There's no question that this is a message movie and themes abound, about tolerance, being true to who you are, and defining yourself as that which you enjoy, sticking up for others, the importance of human dignity and the right to privacy, making the right choices, and that it's okay to do things your own way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Andy starts out as the boy who wants to fit it to avoid bullies, but realizes that not sticking up for others feels worse than getting harassed. He learns a lot about being true to his own gifts and appreciating others for who they are -- even if they sit in "geek corner" at lunch. Mr. Simon is a model teacher full of principles. For the year 1965 this is a pretty integrated school; Andy is white and one of his best friends is African American.

Violence

Acts of eighth grade bullying and harassment include punching, threatening, whipping a girl with a jacket (she gets cut by the zipper), spraying water on someone's pants crotch, knocking a boy off a bike, stealing money, and giving wedgies. Mentions that a boy had his head dunked in a toilet and his tooth broken. A father says that he beat his son after he got in trouble at school. Andy kicks a bully in the groin. Andy's father asks if he was ever touched inappropriately by his teacher.

Sex

Andy talks about wanting to kiss a girl in school who's gone steady with a number of boys in his class already. He calls her a "make-out artist." Eventually he has a summer of "glorious" make-out sessions with her; the audience only sees the first couple kisses.

Language

"Bitchin'," "ass" a few times, "screw it," "hell," "dammit," "go to hell." Some name calling: "ginger," "homo," and a girl is given "cootie" as a middle name. And the time period-appropriate use of "negro."

Consumerism

A classic Skippy peanut butter commercial is shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A kid's father drinks a beer, plus "where are they now" end credits that mention someone smoking marijuana and not being heard from again.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that amidst the many positive messages this coming-of-age movie tries to convey -- about being true to yourself and sticking up for others for starters -- there are a few mature themes. Eighth graders (in 1965) are bullied with punches and threats and one girl is whipped by a jacket. After a teacher sticks up for her a rumor circulates about him being a "homo" and parents threaten the principal to take action against him; he refuses to say whether he's gay or not out of principle. Andy's dad asks him at the dinner table if he was ever touched inappropriately while his mother tells him that "sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Simon's character." Throughout the movie Andy tries to court a girl known as a "make-out artist" and eventually gets kissed and goes steady with her.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 year old Written byLou186000 May 11, 2014

good movie with some heavy themes

The synopsis of *That's What I Am" here at commonsensemedia.org is pretty complete, yet I managed to only gloss over it as I hunted for something fami... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 year old Written byblue_orca May 23, 2014

10 year old wasn't ready for this

We chose this movie for family movie night due to the PG rating. Our daughter (who just turned 10) recently wrote an essay about bullying so we thought she wou... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySteffyRoxx June 7, 2012

Okay

It's good. It does give a message of making out at the young age of 12. I'm 16 and I personally think the make-out artist girl is a child hoe. Famous... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysubhankasi June 21, 2015

Great Message. but Mutarity

The movie is great with many role models....Mr.Simon and Big G and Andy are good models .....but all is absolutely right untill there's entrance of Mary Cl... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's 1965 and popular-enough Andy (Chase Ellison) is in the eighth grade trying hard not to make waves so he's not picked on by the bullies. So he's horrified when his favorite teacher Mr. Simon (Ed Harris) pairs him with the biggest geek in school -- literally a giant redhead everyone calls Big G (Alexander Walters) -- for a school project. Now he has to brave "geek corner" at lunch to get his project done. But he's got other problems. The girl of his dreams, Mary Clear (Mia Rose Frampton), says that she like him -- great -- but her last boyfriend was the biggest bully of them all. Suddenly both school work and the pursuit of a first kiss are both dangerous endeavors. But the bullies set out to make an example of more than just Andy. When Mr. Simon sticks up for a mistreated student they retaliate by circulating a rumor that could threaten his career.

Is it any good?

This movie is more like a really good long-running episode of The Wonder Years. If you're playing message movie bingo at home with squares for battling intolerance, being true to yourself, world peace, getting along better with parents, facing fears, standing up for others ... you'd be a winner with this movie. It's not a terrible thing, but that lack of focus is what keeps this sweet little movie from being a really good sweet little movie.

If you're looking for a renter for 10-year-olds, though, THAT'S WHAT I AM is an inspired choice that will get kids talking about its lofty themes and their school experiences. Not such a bad thing at all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that tolerance is explored in this movie. What does it have to do with each main character? Stanley says that prejudice means different things to different people. What does he mean?

  • This is a coming-of-age movie set in 1965. How are Andy's experiences the same as what middle schoolers face today? How are they different? Was it weird, for instance, that no one had a cell phone and Andy had a paper route?

  • Growing up means exploring who you are. What are your favorite movies about kids discovering their gifts? Does it inspire you to write in your journal more or study harder?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate