Valentine Road

 
True story of kid's gender exploration that ends in murder.
  • Review Date: October 7, 2013
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film describes a terrible crime, but those affected by it are able to reap lessons about tolerance and the perils of guns and drugs.

Positive role models

Most of the adults in the movie seem to have terribly failed the children, but there are also responsible and caring professionals depicted.

Violence

The film centers around a brutal murder, which is graphically described; the viewer sees photos of the crime scene, with blood and gore and the victim's clothes smeared with blood.

Sex

Many discussions of sexuality and gender.

Language

Some rough language: "faggot."

Consumerism

Footage of real-life celebrities such as Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Discussion of drugs such as crystal meth and alcohol; the viewer sees the terrible consequences of addiction.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Valentine Road is a documentary about the murder of a child by another child with the crime linked to issues of sexual and gender identity. The murder is described very graphically, and viewers see crime-scene photos with the victim's clothing streaked with blood and gore and the victim's head with two bullet holes in it. We also see the other victims of the crime, including students who witnessed the shooting and the guardians and parents of the murdered boy and the murderer himself; some of the interview footage is very emotional and disturbing. There are descriptions of drug addictions, child abuse, and gunplay that resulted in injuries. Some of those interviewed express strong opinions, positive and negative, about transgender and gay people.

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What's the story?

Oxnard, Calif., eighth grader Larry King was exploring his identity and sexuality when he started wearing eye makeup and high-heeled boots to school. Emboldened by the response, King asked a "cute" male classmate to be his valentine. It was a terrible pick: The next day the classmate, Brandon McInerney, shot him point-blank in the head, twice, while the two were in class together. In VALENTINE ROAD, filmmakers explore why McInerney made his terrible choice and what happened next for all the people who were affected by the crime.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Matthew Shepard. Brandon Teena. Gwen Araujo. These are the names of young people who were murdered because they were gay or transgender, a terrible roll call to which the name Larry King must be added. In Valentine Road, the short, sad life of King and the life of his murderer is unpacked. Both were victims of abuse and neglect, both affected by the prejudices and mores of the adults and the society around them. As Ellen DeGeneres says in a bit of footage culled from her talk show, somewhere McInerney got the idea that being gay, or transgender, or wanting another boy for a valentine was so bad that "killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do."

This is not an easy documentary to watch, but it feels like an important one that pulls no punches. Watching McInerney's mom crying over her son and his love of PBJs, seeing King's friends mourn their departed pal, listening to a group of parents and teachers debating whether King brought the murder on himself by transgressing -- it's all painful. But families who watch together will have much to talk about.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about school shootings and why they happen. What role does gun control play? What role do mental health issues play?

  • Why do you think that the people who produced Valentine Road made the movie? Are they trying to inform? To persuade? To entertain? What is the message the viewer is supposed to get?

  • Who is the viewer supposed to sympathize with in Valentine Road? What about the way they're presented gives you this idea? Is more than one person supposed to be sympathetic?

Movie details

DVD release date:June 3, 2014
Director:Marta Cunningham
Studio:Docurama
Genre:Documentary
Run time:89 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Valentine Road was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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