The Mindfulness Movement

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Mindfulness Movement Movie Poster Image
Docu doesn't go deep enough; war images, language.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 100 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Mindfulness is a useful tool that opens, clears, and focuses the mind and has been found to increase happiness, reduce stress and illness, and strengthen coping skills. As awareness of benefits has grown, meditation and mindfulness are now being used by students, athletes, basketball players, policemen, prisoners, etc. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stories of diverse people overcoming adversity (including drug addiction, homelessness, and trauma) through practicing mindfulness.

Violence

News footage of war zones shows explosions, wounded being bandaged, soldiers carrying guns and wearing belts full of ammunition. A young woman speaks about a suicide attempt. Mention of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sex

Classical statue of a naked man is briefly seen in the background.

Language

One use each of "ass" and "a--hole." Also exclamation of "My God!"

Consumerism

Some mindfulness apps, products, and retreats are highlighted so heavily, without any criticism or balance, that it verges on an infomercial feel.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several people mention drug abuse: One mentions cocaine by name, another is seen in a piece of footage that looks like he's about to shoot up. Old footage shows someone smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know The Mindfulness Movement is a documentary about the rise in popularity of mindfulness. The focus is on anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness, rather than sharing mindfulness techniques (other than two brief meditation sessions) or scientific data. It includes case studies of inspirational people who now use mindfulness, but their histories include examples of both violence (including war and attempted suicide) and drug use. Swearing is limited to a couple uses of "ass." It sometimes feels like the movie is selling the interviewees' products. Despite the strong, clear message about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, the presentation of information is unlikely to hold most kids' interest, particularly preteens and younger.

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What's the story?

THE MINDFULNESS MOVEMENT examines how mindfulness has gained in popularity in recent decades to make a positive impact in the lives of people who are struggling with trauma. Four public figures -- singer/songwriter Jewel, ABC news anchor Dan Harris, noted mindfulness expert George Mumford, and mindfulness leader Sharon Salzberg -- discuss how meditation and mindfulness transformed their lives. They also discuss their efforts to spread the word to create a more peaceful, happier, healthier society. 

Is it any good?

This movie's title may encourage parents to round up the kids so the family can learn how to use mindfulness to ease anxiety, improve focus, and increase coping skills -- but that would be a mistake. Not only is The Mindfulness Movement not likely to keep kids' interest, but it mostly restates, over and over, the benefits of mindfulness while showing people meditating. It doesn't get into specifics or techniques. In fact, there's a good chance that someone totally unfamiliar with mindfulness will walk away still not understanding exactly what it is and how it's achieved. (As schools are getting better at implementing mindfulness training into their curriculum, your kids may know more than what this documentary offers.) And the style of the film makes it feel almost like an industry video: something you show to the administrator of a school, prison, athletic program, etc., to convince them to implement a program. From the generic score (how did executive producer Jewel approve the music?) to the antiseptic voice-over, the presentation detracts from the movie's powerful stories.

To be fair, though, the title does say exactly what the film is about. The film successfully communicates how mindfulness began, its evolution out of the yoga and self-exploration movements of the 1960s and '70s, and how it's getting great results among police agencies, business leaders, prisoners, and students. Part of that growth lies in products -- and as wise and inspirational as guru Deepak Chopra is, he certainly has created a financial empire out of mindfulness. The time the movie spends promoting his app, his subscriptions, his retreats, and his products feels uncomfortable -- especially the part about his biofeedback headband, which costs several hundred dollars. Harris' book and app are also frequently and positively featured. While the film encourages you not to stop and think, if you did, you might realize you're watching an infomercial.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the benefits of mindfulness. Are you using it in your life? How can it be beneficial for victims of trauma?

  • Aside from meditation, what other techniques exist to help you stay in the moment or rid yourself of negative thoughts?

  • How does The Mindfulness Movement compare to other documentaries or nonfiction programs you've seen? Do you think it's effective?

  • Discuss how the subjects turned their lives around. Why do you think they wanted to share what they experienced with others?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love meditation and feelings

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