Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 23
  2. Negative: 2 out of 23
  1. The tragic tale that emerges is full of powerful lessons and impenetrable mysteries
  2. 88
    Stevie seems destined to end the way it does, and is the more courageous and powerful for it. A satisfying ending would have been a lie.
  3. So troubling and unflinchingly honest that watching it becomes a test of empathy and compassion.
  4. It's no accident that this movie is named after both the filmmaker and his subject. It stands with the most thoughtful releases of recent months, and will linger in memory.
  5. 50
    In the end, Stevie is a relentlessly messy, sometimes trying picture of family dysfunction, official neglect and personal tragedy, a disturbing redneck soap opera about real people and real consequences in which the protagonist--like the filmmaker--often proves to be as unlikable as he is sympathetic.
  6. It becomes clear that all this man-child craves is to be loved and, thus, saved.
  7. Of course, James is exploiting Stevie, but the peculiar power of this film lies in James' indirect acknowledgment of it and his hope that his film has some point and value.
  8. Without excusing Stevie's behavior, the film makes a compelling case for how a child molester can grow from the bitter seeds of neglect and abuse.
  9. 75
    Overly long and uncomfortably intrusive, but never less than compelling.
  10. Stevie is compelling, real-life drama: bleak and disturbing, but illuminating all the same.
  11. Despite good reviews at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this is the kind of squishy lost cause that gives liberal guilt a bad name.
  12. Grueling but ultimately rewarding new documentary.
  13. 90
    Neither condemning nor forgiving, the film is a model of documentary evenhandedness, even though James makes no claims of objectivity.
  14. A painful documentary film, partly because of its subject, partly because of the troubling questions raised by the filmmaker's approach.
  15. Because Stevie has none of the glamour of "Hoop Dreams," with its portrait of gifted teenage athletes struggling for glory, it is not nearly as likable a film; but in its earnest, plodding way it is every bit as deep.
  16. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Can one recommend this unblinking film to the average moviegoer, out for a good time? Only in this way: if James and his crew can spend years with these blighted souls, surely you can spend two hours with them, exploring compassion's outer limits.
  17. 80
    The roots of Steve James's disturbing documentary lie in youthful idealism.
  18. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    It's hard to recall the last movie that has left such an emotionally searing question dangling in the mind: "What if ... ?"
  19. Reviewed by: Eddie Cockrell
    A forceful, affecting experience.
  20. 50
    Foreigners often comment on the peculiar American combination of superficial friendliness and profound indifference. Stevie epitomizes a related national trait -- the belief in the curative powers of publicity.
  21. A heart-stirrer at times. More often, it's a heartbreaker.
  22. 30
    By the film's self-congratulatory final shot, Stevie has become less a portrait of a sorry young man's difficult life than the story of auteurist arrogance and self-deception run amok.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. Oct 26, 2014
    I'm a huge documentary fan, and this has to be in my top 20 of all time. Its honest and doesn't pontificate, it presents grueling scenarios with enough force to sicken you, but never revels in the pain it presents. The careful balance of the films production is even more striking when you realize the depth of the filmmakers personal involvement in the story. Finally, with all the dysfunction and harrowing scenes, it still steers clear of the simple option of painting those onscreen as simple 'victims' or 'bad people'. An unflinching, heartbreaking and deeply moving film. Highly recommended. Full Review »
  2. AngelaW.
    Jun 4, 2007
    I have never seen a film so close to the reality that many deny exists. A story that had to be told.
  3. TracyL.
    Feb 15, 2007
    Working in foster care and once living in the same area as this young man I was particularly drawn to watching this documentary. When will adults realize that their actions will forever effect the decisions their children will make for their future?...Whether they be good OR bad. I hope the families involved find the peace that they so deserve and avoid the drama that engulfs their lives. Full Review »