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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Plenty of positive messages in this feel-good drama, particularly that all it takes is one or two people to galvanize a community and enact change. Jamie and Nona have nothing in common when the movie starts, but against all odds they join together to help create a better school, even though that means exposing themselves to gossip and ridicule. Pro-union families should know that the depiction of the teachers' union is negative, even though a teacher explains all the good the union does as well.
Positive Role Models
Jamie will stop at nothing to help secure a better education for her daughter. Even though she isn't that educated herself, she has a fiery spirit and refuses to back down even in the face of overwhelming bureaucracy. Nona joins Jamie's mission and in the process becomes a better teacher.
Violence & Scariness
Not necessarily violent, but very upsetting: A teacher purposely keeps a student from going to the bathroom, so she has an accident in front of the class.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jamie dresses suggestively (tight jeans, midriff-baring tops) and basically seduces a teacher who becomes her boyfriend. There's kissing, and it's clear he spends the night at her house, but there aren't any love scenes.
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Insulting language such as "stupid," "idiot," "retard," "slow," "sucks," "dumb," "uneducated." One or two uses of "ass" and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).
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Products & Purchases
Malia has a Le Sportsac backpack that her mother says cost a fortune, and Jamie buys Dunkin Donuts coffee.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink several times at a bar. A mother relates a harrowing tale about what happened when she drove under the influence when her child was a baby.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Won't Back Down, which is based on actual events, follows a mother's journey to turn her daughter's failing elementary school around. There's some insulting language ("idiot," "retard," as well as "ass") and bullying -- a teacher does nothing as a student rips another student's backpack, and the same teacher purposely keeps a kid from leaving class to use the bathroom. Jamie, the protagonist mom, wears tight clothes and flirts with pretty much everyone -- culminating in a romantic relationship with a teacher at her child's school. Adults drink at a bar and restaurant, but there's no drunkenness. Parents and kids will be reminded of the difference that just one or two people can make in a community. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
If WON'T BACK DOWN were an inspiring made-for-TV movie, it would no doubt earn Gyllenhaal and Davis Emmy Award nominations. It's exactly the sort of "inspired by true events" drama that would be a great fit for basic cable. But on the big screen, the poignant premise (uneducated single mom will stop at nothing to secure her little girl a decent education) succumbs to a formula that feels a bit flat.
Of course it's a compelling story, because what parent doesn't want to think they have the courage of conviction to stand up to endless amounts of red tape? But this isn't really a tale about an amazing teacher like Stand and Deliver or Dead Poets Society; this is a David vs. Goliath story -- with a single mom and a teacher hurling their proverbial rocks at both a behemoth school board and a stuck-in-its-ways union. The performances get an "A" (Gyllenhaal and Davis are class acts), but the polemical story isn't novel enough to merit an extra star.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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