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Parents' Guide to

The Better Angels

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Contemplative but pretentious drama about Lincoln's boyhood.

Movie PG 2014 95 minutes
The Better Angels Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Director AJ Edwards' debut feature is technically memorable, particularly thanks to cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd. But the film itself -- despite its compelling subject matter of Lincoln's early years -- doesn't rise above much more than a feature-length Terrence Malick tribute. (If you want to be even less charitable, the voice-over heavy, lyrical story is like a film student's assignment to make something in the signature style of his favorite director.) Malick isn't just a mentor of Edwards' but is also a producer (and formerly attached director) of The Better Angels, so it's not surprising that the movie bears such a strong resemblance to Malick's work.

The nearly dialogue-free performances are all nuanced and expressive -- with Clarke, Marling, and Kruger doing a lovely job with their roles. Young Abe actor Braydon Denney is sweet and reflective and brings his eyes to heaven throughout the film. The story covers two of the most important events in Lincoln's young life -- his mother's death and the arrival of his stepmother -- and both are captured with a poignant intimacy. Lincoln (or Malick) aficionados will be attracted to the movie, but anyone else might be a tad bored with the poetic proceedings that, while beautiful, could also be perceived as pretentious and even boring.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: November 7, 2014
  • On DVD or streaming: March 3, 2015
  • Cast: Jason Clarke , Diane Kruger , Brit Marling
  • Director: A.J. Edwards
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: Amplify
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: History
  • Run time: 95 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG
  • MPAA explanation: thematic elements and brief smoking
  • Last updated: February 26, 2022

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