Parents' Guide to

The Sentence

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Poignant docu about mandatory minimum imprisonment.

Movie PG 2018 85 minutes
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The poignant documentary offers a very personal glimpse into the lives of a family who pays a high price for the mandatory long-term incarceration of a loved one for a non-violent offense. The film, which won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was shot over approximately ten years. It began as a compilation of home movies meant to record Cindy Shank's daughters' lives while she was serving her sentence. But what it captures is the toll it takes on her loved ones, and how her children are sentenced to grow up without her until her pardon in 2016.

The Sentence contains some very emotional moments. However, despite some brief interview footage with lawyers and others involved with Cindy Shank's case, it offers few details about their almost-decade long legal battle. It doesn't spend a significant amount of time addressing the overall strain mandatory minimum sentencing is having on the U.S. penal system, and the impact it particularly has on women. What it does do, however, is underscore the fact that these laws have very real and damaging consequences that are both unfair and unnecessary, from an intimate point of view.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: October 12, 2018
  • On DVD or streaming: October 22, 2019
  • Cast: Cindy Shankm, Adam Shank, Autumn Shank
  • Director: Rudy Valdez
  • Inclusion Information: Latinx directors
  • Studio: Park Pictures
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 85 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG
  • MPAA explanation: Some material may not suited for children.
  • Last updated: January 30, 2023

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