The Reunited States

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Reunited States Movie Poster Image
Docu makes a hopeful plea for moderates, bipartisanship.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes compassion, empathy, gratitude, and communication. Encourages people to get out of their bubbles and learn how others think, what their experiences have been, and what matters to them. Pleads the case for those who consider themselves politically moderate or independent, and also for those who hope for racial healing, justice, and discussion.

Positive Role Models

The majority of the featured people are White, with the exception of Mr. Olikara, who's South Asian and the child of immigrants. Susan wants to help White people understand their complicity in racism and what they should do to be anti-racist. Orman believes the two-party system is stifling and unproductive and wants a future in which independents stand a chance of winning and breaking the current Democrat/Republican stronghold. Some of the people the main characters meet are Black, indigenous, and people of color. The Leavertons become devoted to discussing and combating racism and racial injustice. They have a daughter with Down syndrome, which has fueled the importance they place on feeling empathetic about prejudice and bigotry.  

Violence

References to the death of Heather Heyer, who was struck by a car while peacefully protesting a White supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA. A Black woman discusses how her first pregnancy ended in the baby's death after neglect by hospital staff. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Apple/Mac, Sony, brief glimpses of cars.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults enjoy meals that include alcoholic drinks. A Native man mentions how alcohol and addiction have destroyed his community.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Reunited States is a political documentary based on Mark Gerzon's nonfiction book The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide. It makes the case for accepting U.S. political independents, celebrating bipartisanship, and reaching across the aisle to heal the divisive wounds of hyper-partisanship. Executive produced by Van Jones and Meghan McCain, the film features various activists, leaders, and influencers who are promoting the cause of unity. Discussions include mention of Heather Heyer's violent death during a protest at the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, as well as the way racist medical practices may have led to the loss of a pregnancy. While there's not of traditionally mature content, the themes and topics are better suited for older tweens and teens who understand and appreciate civics, American history, and what partisanship means.

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What's the story?

Based on Mark Gerzon's nonfiction book The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide, THE REUNITED STATES is a documentary about people and organizations who are seeking to heal divisions, reach beyond U.S. political party lines, and meet, get to know, and break bread with folks from vastly different backgrounds. Executive produced by Van Jones and Meghan McCain (one an outspoken Democrat, the other a famous Republican) and directed by Ben Rekhi, the film features former Republican strategist David Leaverton and his wife, Erin Leaverton, who pack up their three kids to travel across America for a year in an RV. There's also Greg Orman, an independent gubernatorial candidate in Kansas. Steven Olikara launched the Millennial Action Project, an organization that brings together Millennials and Millennial politicians regardless of party. Lastly there's Susan Bro, the mother of the late Heather Heyer, who was killed while protesting the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. She spends her time taking up her daughter's cause of racial healing and restorative justice. 

Is it any good?

Unlike many political documentaries, this one is truly middle of the road, urging discussion, friendship, and conversation over rhetoric and partisanship. It posits that by truly knowing and caring for people from across ethnic, racial, and socio-political spectrums, people can be more empathetic and understand one another -- and why they hold certain personal and political beliefs. At first a cynical viewer might think the Leavertons are undergoing a gimmicky roadtrip to produce a book or social media content, but they listen more than they talk, and they learn from the people they meet, whether it's a weeping Black mother who recalls how hospital staff dismissed her, leading to tragedy, or Bro, who admits that when she looked up David Leaverton's bio, she was initially uninterested in meeting him. 

As an independent, Orman is interesting, because he won't disclose which party he'd caucus with and mentions a few platforms that align with Republican policies and others that align with Democrat policies. He believes that most Americans aren't die-hard to the Right or the Left but firmly in the middle. Even though he loses his race, Orman makes a compelling case for breaking out of the two-party system. Olikara, meanwhile, wants to build alliances along generational lines, hoping that Millennials will stop the hyperpartisanship and learn to talk about what's important to young people across party lines. Bro is deserving of her own documentary because she has so whole-heartedly taken Heyer's commitment to social justice to heart. Nothing in The Reunited States is revolutionary, nor are there many concrete answers about to how to foster unity beyond talking and listening. But the call for empathy and unity is important. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in The Reunited States. What makes the characters hopeful? How does talking to people with different backgrounds and beliefs change their minds?

  • Which people in the movie do you consider role models? What character strengths do they embody? Why are compassion, empathy, and gratitude important personality traits?

  • Do you agree that people in the United States need to talk to one another more? How can people discuss issues, policies, values, hopes, and fears without devolving into party politics? 

  • How are race, poverty, and violence depicted and discussed in the film? Do you agree that race plays a role in how people react to violence and victims? 

Movie details

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