The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar TV Poster Image
By-the-book yet inspiring biopic of superstar gymnast.

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Positive Messages

Central theme is that with courage and discipline, anything is possible. But movie isn't idealistic about it, discussing sacrifices,  hard choices. As a teen, Simone is mocked by neighborhood boys for her muscular body and seems embarrassed, but is empowered when her best friend tells her she has nothing to be ashamed of and that they only wish they had her athletic prowess. Later, there's a brief but great moment when Biles mentions how grateful she is that her coach doesn't believe in starving her trainees, and that healthy foods build healthy bodies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Shows Simone's growth as a person and a gymnast, and what it took to get there. Relationship between Biles and her family is central to her success, with her mom Nellie reminding her to stay humble and to express her emotions instead of bottling them up. Characters also do a lot to destigmatize mental health issues. Biles initially struggles with her diagnosis of ADHD, but with the help of her mom she learns to view it and to treat it as she would any other health challenge, such as asthma.

Violence
Sex
Language

At one point Biles says, "I get it, I suck!" -- and that's it on any iffy language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Biles' birth mom has drug issues, which are referenced but not in any super specific or graphic way. No drug use is shown. A brief mention of taking prescription medication for ADHD.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar is an inspiring underdog tale about real-life world champion gymnast Simone Biles. It's based on her autobiography of the same name. There are some nongraphic mentions of drug abuse and drug testing, as Biles was placed in foster care at an early age due to her birth mom's struggles with addiction. No drug use or violence is shown. The film mentions Biles' ADHD diagnosis, and her fearful attitude toward taking prescription medication to treat it. There are some brief references to body image and the types of super-restrictive diets athletes are sometimes placed on, but Biles herself does not engage in this behavior, and the film is careful to present her powerful body in a positive manner. It's important to mention that this movie was filmed before Biles went public as one of the 160+ accusers of former USA Gymnastics sports clinic doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct against the young women entrusted to his care -- so there is no discussion of this issue.

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What's the story?

THE SIMONE BILES STORY: COURAGE TO SOAR is based on the book of the same name, and chronicles the real-life story of Simone Biles, who is frequently referred to by others in her field as "the greatest gymnast ever." The story begins with her painful early life in foster care -- her birth mom struggled with addiction issues -- and continues to her subsequent adoption by dad Ron (Julius Tennon, How to Get Away with Murder) and mom Nellie (Tisha Campbell, My Wife and Kids). The film follows Simone (played by newcomer Jeanté Godlock) as her jaw-dropping talent for gymnastics is developed with the help of her coach, Aimee (Kathleen Rose Perkins, Fresh Off the Boat), and her family, who help her deal with the many challenges and sacrifices she'll have to face on her journey toward world champion status.

Is it any good?

Though her start in life was rocky, the way Simone's family embraces and nurtures her is heartwarming to watch and will have you rooting for her from start to finish. Though she was considered by many to be a "natural-born gymnast" from an early age, The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar shows that even innate talent isn't enough to take you all the way -- it requires great interior strength and perseverance, as well as a solid support system. Watching her develop as an athlete is exciting, with a coach who is affectionate but also knows how to challenge her. The film is also full of life lessons like the one handed down by her mom Nellie, who reminds her that despite her undeniable gifts, she's no more or less important than her sister. Nellie tells her: "We are not your fans, we are your family."

The soundtrack can be overbearing and cheesy at times -- lots of musical cues letting you know exactly how to feel -- but this is to be expected, considering the film genre. Training montages, emotional setbacks, and joy-filled triumphs are all par for the course in a biopic like this, but it's a positivity-filled ride all the same.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the hard choices athletes like Simone have to make when pursuing their goals. She gave up normal teenage experiences like attending high school and hanging out with her friends so that she could train for the Olympics, and at times expressed very conflicted feelings about this. Are these types of sacrifices worth it? Is there a sport or hobby you enjoy enough to forgo these types of experiences?

  • What aspects of the competitive professional gymnastics world are not covered in The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar?

  • How does Biles show perseverance? What other character strengths does she display? 

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