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We Are Stronger

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
We Are Stronger Movie Poster Image
Uneven Christian story of trauma recovery.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 125 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Lots of messages about power of God and Christ to heal; other faiths aren't mentioned. God and Christ are present all the time, even through tragedy, horror. Christ's story shows that he and God understand your pain, despair. Secular messages include that sharing your story is a big part of healing, but it's OK that it takes time to be ready to share. You can't heal or be helpful caregiver all on your own; you need help, support from loved ones so mind, body, and spirit can be strong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ultimately Vic is a good role model for learning to open himself to others and that sharing experiences is a big part of healing. But we see him go through difficult times, model negative behavior like drinking, contemplating suicide, jealousy, refusing to seek help. Michelle is a committed wife, devoted caretaker who learns to seek help and support for herself, too. Other characters are positive role models of people working on healing or who have overcome past trauma.

Violence

Combat scene briefly shows bloody leg wound and blood on unconscious soldier's face, neck. Past childhood sexual molestation or rape is implied through phrases like somebody "liking" young boys, things happening under the stairs of an apartment building, being afraid to tell anyone because perpetrator threatened victim. Mention of listening to soldiers repeatedly raping women, children; hearing their screams. Past suicide attempts mentioned; Vic holds a gun in his lap while drinking, implying he's thinking about suicide. Vic slaps remote control out of Michelle's hand, advances on her menacingly.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Several incidental-seeming shots show iPhone, Ford, Chevrolet, and Jim Beam logos or products. A sequence of scenes depicts Mighty Oaks programs and activities. Several prominent shots of books, leaflets, or fliers for Christ-centered healing through organizations affiliated with the movie's production.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes show Vic drinking from a fifth bottle as an ineffective coping mechanism. Vic combines pain medications with alcohol and collapses. A man pours from a flask into a coffee cup. A character is in recovery for alcohol addiction. Several mentions of past drug use. A minor but important character smokes and handles an unlit cigarette in an extended scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that We Are Stronger is a Christian story about a career soldier's struggle with PTSD and his journey toward learning to heal. Other faiths aren't mentioned, and everyone is assumed to believe in the Christian God. Violence includes some blood shown in the aftermath of combat, a trauma survivor telling indirectly about past childhood sexual abuse, and a soldier who had to listen to enemy soldiers repeatedly raping -- hearing the screams of their victims. Alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and divorce as prominent consequences of not dealing effectively with trauma are mentioned. A minor character smokes. There are lots of messages about the power of God and Christ to heal, the importance of sharing, and seeking help because you can't heal alone. Kids demonstrate how they're taught to proselytize.

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What's the story?

WE ARE STRONGER tells the story of Master Sergeant Vic Raphael (Ulises Larramendi). Although he was deployed many times in his 20-year Army career, Vic's last deployment left him seriously wounded and guilt-ridden over the death of one of his men. Now back home, retired, and confined to a wheelchair, Vic refuses to see the symptoms of PTSD in himself, and refuses to seek help or to try to improve himself in any way. To make his wife, Michelle (Angela Sweet), happy, he grudgingly agrees to see a counselor, but still doesn't want to talk about anything. Will Vic ever be able to heal from his trauma?

Is it any good?

This well-intentioned Christian movie about healing from trauma has a few touching moments, but a weak script and sometimes amateurish acting keep it from genuinely moving the secular viewer. Instead of an in-depth character study about faith and healing, We Are Stronger simply moves from one clichéd exchange of dialogue to another. Viewers can understand and care about the plight of those recovering from trauma, but we never really feel like we're getting to a profound understanding of Vic personally or individually.

Christians who are looking for help for themselves or a loved one will find a lot of resources for Christ-centered healing, and will be moved by Vic and Michelle's story. Secular viewers may be put off by the default assumption that everyone is Christian, but those that stick with it may appreciate secular messages about healing through sharing pain and understanding that we're not alone. Brief blood, mature themes, and a story of past sexual abuse make it best for teens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Christian messages in We Are Stronger. How important is faith in God, and Christ in particular, to healing from trauma? Do the messages apply to other faiths? How accessible are the messages to non-Christians and non-believers?

  • What are Vic's and Michelle's character strengths? What do you like about them? What are their flaws? Can you relate to them?

  • Do you know anyone who's been through a traumatic experience? How can you help? If you've been through trauma yourself, where can you get help?

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