Us Kids

Movie review by
Monique Jones, Common Sense Media
Us Kids Movie Poster Image
Powerful doc on Parkland activists has traumatic situations.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes political literacy and activism for teens and young people. Shows how young people can utilize trauma to fuel social justice and accomplish social change.

Positive Role Models

The diverse group of featured teens are survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. Along with other teenage gun violence survivors from across the country, they come together to tour the nation in hopes of inspiring voters to elect legislators interested in gun reform. They exhibit human flaws, which makes them all the more relatable. They encounter people who dismiss them and denigrate their efforts but meet those challenges with grace.

Violence

Snippets of cell phone footage from the shooting are included, but no actual shots are heard and no injured or killed people are shown. The film's primary objective is to teach about the lasting physical and mental trauma that shooting survivors must live with. Teens cry for and mourn lost friends and deal with issues including suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and survivor's guilt.

Sex

Dating/crushes mentioned.

Language

Language is infrequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," and more.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Vaping is shown. Champagne is displayed when one of the teens accepts an award during a gala. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Us Kids offers a firsthand account of the stories of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors, whose experience propelled them into national political and social activism. The teens profiled in the film face resistance from gun ownership proponents and NRA-backed lawmakers while inspiring others who support gun regulation. The documentary reveals how the activists' perseverance and teamwork helped turn the tide of the 2018 midterm elections. While the film is inspiring and empowering, it does include some swearing (including "f--k"), minor drug (vaping) and alcohol use, and overt focus on trauma and its mental health effects. Suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, and survivor's guilt are among the survivors' issues. There's also a quick moment regarding climate anxiety. Parents with teens who are struggling with anxiety and/or depression should discuss the themes in the film and any possible stress it could cause. 

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What's the story?

US KIDS follows the journey of the survivors-turned-activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. The teens, including David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, Samantha Fuentes, and Jaclyn Corin, turn their grief into action by fighting back against the lack of gun reform in America. Their tactics include marches, such as the nationally broadcast March For Our Lives, as well as a nationwide tour to speak to prospective voters about the importance of gun reform ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Their teens' tireless pace sets them for mental and physical burnout, possibly worsening their experience of trauma in some ways -- while alleviating it in others. But their work helps change the landscape of the 2018 voting block, propelling more young voters to the polls and ushering in a new wave of reform-minded candidates into office.

Is it any good?

Directed by Kim A. Snyder, this powerful film puts viewers in the mindset of the Parkland activists as they grow from grief-stricken teens to activists struggling with their newfound spotlight. Us Kids does a fantastic job of bringing the Parkland tragedy into the realm of the personal, forcing viewers to realize that these larger-than-life people we've read about in the news are actually young people who are simply hoping to live safely. 

The film also hones in on the unimaginable amount of abuse the activists faced, particularly in states where gun reform is the most contested. Hogg, for instance, is derided as a crisis actor and faces multiple death threats for simply asking that machine guns stay out of untrained hands. That treatment, plus the teens' personal trauma, compound and show up in various ways, from fears of closed spaces and survivor's guilt to existential crises and fears of weakness in the face of adversity. The human toll of fighting for a just cause leaves a mark on the viewer, while the young activists' ability to make change against incredible odds provides hope for those who also want to leave their mark on society.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Parkland students exhibit perseverance amid extreme adversity. Why is perseverance an important character strength?

  • How does the students' teamwork help them accomplish their goals, and what keeps them motivated?

  • How can people increase their political and social awareness?

  • What steps can be taken to properly deal with mental trauma? What are positive strategies to turn negative emotions into positive action?

  • Do you consider this film objective? Do documentaries have to aim for objectivity?

Movie details

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