The Break

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Break TV Poster Image
Docu about homeless youth empowers and inspires.

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Positive Messages

The Break seeks to change people's perceptions of young homeless people and what can be done to help them. It also highlights the need to make positive and healthy choices in order to improve our own lives.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anne Mahlum is a homeless advocate who assists young homeless people by offering them assistance designed to help them find shelter, get jobs, and become self-sufficient. She also advocates running as a way of helping people empower themselves.


No violence visible; one homeless teen admits to stealing in order to eat. The consequences of associating with gangs are also explored.


The negative consequences of risky sexual behavior -- including pregnancy, STDs, and more -- are discussed. Birth control, sexual abuse, and homosexuality are also discussed.


Occasional words like "damn" are audible. Rare use of "s--t" is muted.


Mahlum is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Back on My Feet; shelters like Covenant House are also highlighted. Music from U2's The Edge is featured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking is visible. One homeless youth discusses abusing drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Break is a documentary that attempts to change the way that people think about young homeless people and how to help them. It also underscores the importance of making positive choices, working hard, and understanding the consequences of our actions. Smoking is visible, and issues like sexual abuse, promiscuity, birth control, homosexuality, and drug use are discussed. Crime, street violence, and gang culture are also themes. All this is offered within the context of explaining how people can end up homeless and the risks that come with living life on the streets. Parents may want to watch with their teens and talk about some of the issues raised here.

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What's the story?

THE BREAK is a short documentary that gives viewers a first-hand look into the harsh reality endured by young homeless men and women -- and how they can turn their lives around if they get a break. Hosted by homeless advocate Anne Mahlum, The Break spotlights Nancy, Rob, and Ava, three young adults who want to become self-sufficient but who find themselves homeless in New York City as a result of difficult circumstances or iffy choices. Mahlum spends time working with them to make sure they understand how their choices impact their lives and helps them empower themselves to get off the streets and begin to work toward their dreams. During the process, she shows them how running, as a form of exercise, can help them feel more self-sufficient. The young adults' journeys aren't easy, but they offer a chance to change their lives in a positive way.

Is it any good?

The Break is an interesting -- and voyeuristic -- look into the lives of three of America's 1.5 million homeless young people. While the stories about how these young people got to the streets are sad, what makes this documentary compelling is the importance placed on assuming responsibility for the choices they've made. The Break also points out that there's no quick fix to their problems and that it will take a lot of commitment and hard work to become self-sufficient and realize their life goals.

It isn't easy to listen to some of the featured folks' struggles, but their willingness to take charge of their lives and take advantage of the opportunities being offered to them send a very strong and positive message. Meanwhile, watching Mahlum and various other people and organizations willingly offer their assistance shows viewers the many ways people can make a difference. Overall, The Break succeeds in offering a realistic but inspiring look at the way we think about the homeless -- and the ways that we can really help people in need.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being homeless. What are some of the stereotypes that exist about homeless people? How does the media perpetuate these characterizations? Which groups of people more at risk of becoming homeless than others? Why?

  • Why are people sometimes hesitant to help homeless people they see on the streets? What kinds of efforts are being made in your community to help? What are some of the things that your family does to help people?

TV details

  • Premiere date: March 2, 2012
  • Cast: Anne Mahlum
  • Network: MTV
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • Character strengths: Empathy
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

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