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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Urban Country is a drama about Faith (Brighton Sharbino), a troubled teenage girl who changes her life after a stint in juvenile hall earns her a move to her mother Anna's (Candice Michele Barley) ranch in rural Mississippi. The movie is largely free of iffy content: There's no drinking, drugs, swearing (though at one point a boy calls Faith "trash"), or sex -- the most romance the movie contains is a chaste dance between two teens who've shared tender nonsexual moments. A parent dies from cancer over the course of the movie and is grieved by her loved ones; viewers see her funeral and burial. A character points out that animals on a farm are usually raised to be eaten; Faith is shown catching a chicken for dinner but not killing it. Positive messages are frequent and meaningful, with both teen and adult characters atoning for their mistakes, understanding exactly who their actions hurt and apologizing and doing better next time.
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What's the story?
When a wrong turn lands URBAN COUNTRY's Faith (Brighton Sharbino) in legal trouble, and her pushed-to-the-limit father, David (Jason London), is no longer willing to bail her out, her mom, Anna (Barley), steps up to offer Faith a new home on her working ranch in Mississippi. Faith thinks Mississippi will be a place to get away from it all, but her problems follow her even to the Airstream trailer her mom gives her to sleep in. Faith makes an effort, with the help of Anna's ranch hands/adopted sons, Blake (Dean J. West) and Corey (Arthur Marroquin). But her journey to happiness is disrupted by a sudden tragedy -- and it's going to take all of Faith's newly won skills and confidence to keep the ranch -- and her life -- on track.
Is it any good?
Sweet, sincere, and ultimately quite moving (to those who can handle its leisurely pace), this surprisingly poignant movie transcends its clichéd coming-of-age plotline and simplistic characters. Viewers will know that Faith is a City Girl on the Wrong Path from the very first moment she's seen on a skateboard with glitter high-tops, intent on breaking into a stadium to tag the stands (it's art, not vandalism, she tells her skater-boy posse, but just try telling the security guards that). One implausible trip to juvie later, and Faith's ready to split the city scene to spend more time with her ranch-owner mom in the great outdoors, a character-building tool in drama since time immemorial. Mucking out stalls and currying horses, it seems, is the key to turning this reckless teen into a caring adult.
It sounds very trite, and it could have been, if not for the talented actors and sympathetic script, which breathes life into the clichés. Faith actually does care about her mom, and soon, about the ranch passed down through her family's generations and the more-or-less adopted sons that are helping Anna run it. As Faith slowly transforms from a smart-mouthed punk into a young woman with courage and grit who earns the affection she gets from others, sensitive viewers may find themselves tearing up a little -- and rooting for Faith and the ranch to find their footing. Though teens and tweens may resist watching such a wholesome movie, protesting that it sounds boring, Urban Country is precisely the kind of movie that adults want them to watch, with relatable characters who grow realistically. If you can get your kids to bite, you won't be sorry you did.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why dramas often focus on characters who change their lives by moving to a new place and dealing with unpleasant realities. Can people make changes without changing their circumstances? How does a move or a major life change often spark people to take stock of their lives?
Blake doesn't show emotions easily. How does he demonstrate his affection for his brother and Faith? What evidence does he give that he cares? Is this a common trait in people in real life, that they display emotions through action?
Did you notice any stereotyping in the movie? What did characters learn about stereotypes over the course of the story?
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