Parents' Guide to

The Short History of the Long Road

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Authentic coming-of-age road trip drama has teen pot use.

Movie NR 2020 90 minutes
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Ani Simon-Kennedy's first feature is an unexpectedly honest and unique drama about the life of a bohemian teen. It's a road trip movie, which is metaphorically perfect, since Nola is on a journey. The storyline prematurely forces her out of her father's protective nest and, while we fear for her, she -- and we -- are able to see how successful Clint was in teaching her to be self-sufficient. Nola is remarkably calm within the storm, quickly learning to adapt to manage relationships with the various "types" of people she meets along the way with as much grace as you can expect from a 16-year-old. She'd be a fantastic role model if not for her kleptomania.

That's the one knock here: What starts out as a casual habit -- stealing an ornate barrette from an upper-middle-class woman -- becomes a mode of survival. Nola even steals from people who've shown her kindness. From a filmmaking standpoint, it gives her complexity and humanity, but from a parenting standpoint, it almost seems to justify learning to shoplift. Some adults become aware of her sticky fingers but don't challenge her on it. But one woman, who's active with the local church, does step in and acts with compassion. Her interactions with Nola are positive, and when they go their separate ways, the film isn't promoting or knocking Christianity; it's all just very realistic and human. When Nola befriends Blue (Jashaun St. John), whose father is abusive, again, Kennedy doesn't go for the sensational -- instead, she goes for authenticity. There's no hammering home of messages here. Instead, Kennedy offers up a quiet, beautiful story about teens who are like baby birds, spreading their wings before they're ready and realizing they can fly.

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