Title: Amazing Grace (2006; PG)
Director: Michael Apted
Major Themes: Slavery, William Wilberforce
Synopsis: The story of William Wilberforce and how he did his best to change the world he lived in.
As a child, one part of history that always intrigued me was the period of the African slaves. A good portion of our American curriculum had to do with the importance of the Civil War, and closely tied to that, of course, is the story of slavery and eventual freedom. One of my favorite stories of the underground has always been Runaway to Freedom, although I also remember really enjoying the Trailblazer series’ story about Herriot Tubman, Listen for the Whippoorwill, along with a good number of other books both about slaves and the war. Also included in our curriculum somewhere was William Wilberforce: God’s Politician, a great biography of the fascinating man’s life. Amazing Grace make William Wilberforce’s work come alive, and it’s a must watch if you’re studying this subject.
William Wilberforce was an amazing man. As a political activist, he brought about a huge amount of good to his country by challenging the very roots of what many considered an integral part of British economy. He was also a family man to some extent, and a devoted Christian—although neither of those things comes through very strongly in the movie. Through this story, we follow his call to fight by the soon-to-be prime minister and his close friend William Pitt—a call that changed the course of British history. Until Wilberforce’s time, slavery was an accepted practice. But as the forceful young man soon found out, it was entrenched in greed and evil treatment, and he quickly realized this was no way to treat fellow children of God. His fight for justice and the end of the slave trade lasted the greater portion of his life, as he petitioned Parliament to recognize the rights of the slaves. Together with a concerned band of people he did all he could—and finally gained the victory, just days before his death.
Amazing Grace is an intriguing portrait of a world-moving man. Besides just fighting for slave’s rights, William Wilberforce also fought for the rights of the poor. He was more than just a politician, though—even this film focuses on that aspect of his life. He had a strong faith in God, and believing that God created all people was one his foundational reasons for asserting the rights of slaves in the first place. Despite his eventual success as a politician, though, his life was anything but easy. For years he suffered from terrible incurable stomach issues, and although painkiller did help some he sometimes flew into fits from the pain inflicted by his sickness. It did seem to help some when he met and soon after married Barbara Spooner, but even then with the political race always going on he never had much of a chance to rest. Despite that, he fought on, and in the end is a great example of perseverance finally paying off.
WARNING: I would consider this movie fairly family friendly, but there are some warnings that people may want to know about. There is slight violence as a horse is being whipped in the opening scene. A quick kiss at 2:35. One of the characters has a bad dream, and you hear horrific details about the slave trade from 25:24–27:14. The character later dreams of slave children being burned terribly in their work (35:13–35:35), this includes a scream. Several of the women’s dresses have very low necklines, it was especially bad or noticeable in the following places: 36:40–42:09, 55:25–57:50, 1:16:14–1:18:33. A slave ship is shown from 42:57–44:39. There is also telling some of the horrors of how slaves are treated between 1:22:17–1:23:00 and 1:28:00–1:28:52. I also noted multiple instances (didn’t count exactly how many, but it was sprinkled throughout) where characters used God’s name in vain and also said some other inappropriate words; I counted at least five different words in total that I don’t appreciate. Overall, the movie is fairly good, but families with small children especially may wish to preview the scenes mentioned above. Also, at different times William is violent as a result of his sickness, and several characters break things when trying to prove a point.
Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults