Parents' Guide to

The First Grader

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Inspiring true story has some violent wartime flashbacks.

Movie PG-13 2011 103 minutes
The First Grader Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

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Is It Any Good?

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Kids say (3):

Director Justin Chadwick lovingly depicts the story of an old man who recognizes his last shot at learning. That said, The First Grader isn't always an easy film to watch. Slowly paced and featuring lots of subtitled dialogue, the story unfolds almost like a documentary or TV special, not a gripping drama. And, like Hotel Rwanda, there are scenes of violence and torture that, while not bloody, are horrifying. But it's undeniably uplifting, and Litondo -- with his walking stick ever ready to poke some oppressor in the shins -- is quite a compelling actor.

Although they're difficult to see, the horrors of the past are necessary to witness, because they explain why a man like Maruge would have waited a lifetime to become literate. If an 84-year-old can be a first grader, the movie posits, no one should ever feel embarrassed by trying to learn something later than others, and that's the sort of feel-good lesson every viewer could use.

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