Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

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Universal acclaim- based on 15 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: This documentary speaks about the complex realities of growing up, family history, and how the system has - despite good intentions - failed to rescue certain kids. (Lions Gate Films)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 23
  2. Negative: 2 out of 23
  1. 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.
  2. 90
    Neither condemning nor forgiving, the film is a model of documentary evenhandedness, even though James makes no claims of objectivity.
  3. 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.
  4. A heart-stirrer at times. More often, it's a heartbreaker.
  5. 75
    Overly long and uncomfortably intrusive, but never less than compelling.
  6. A painful documentary film, partly because of its subject, partly because of the troubling questions raised by the filmmaker's approach.
  7. 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.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. 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.
  2. DM
    Sep 26, 2006
    One of the best movies I have ever seen. I would love to see a Stevie Part II. I want to know what happens to him after prison.
  3. C.A.
    Dec 2, 2006
    This a very well done, brutally honest documentary on what it's like to be a mentor, the struggle to make the world a better place, and the reality of poverty, diminished capacity, and someone who can't top himself from making bad decisions. Collapse
  4. Lionel
    Feb 9, 2006
    i don't know how there were critics who rated this movie poorly. it's an incredibly honest film which actually shows the documentary maker (steve) in as a critical a light as the subject (stevie). as a viewer, we feel that this subject-matter in many ways is too honest and brutal and thus that the documentary filmaker is exploiting his subject. the very fact that the steve was 'big brother' to stevie, and this is a story about an adult's wayward and tragic turn due to the results of childhood neglect, indeed says something profound about the documentary filmmaker himself.. where lies his true compassion for his subject? Expand
  5. Pinky
    Jul 25, 2006
    An intriguing film and I wondered a lot about why Steve James returned to Stevie in the first place. Whatever the reason it took a certain amount of courage and perhaps feelings of guilt. [***SPOILERS***] I have some personal experience with the setting that Stevie grew up in. There were several points when I had to mute the sound because the round and round bickering and tearing each other down was so disturbingly reminiscient. Yet, when Stevie or his family members are asked why they put up with the heartbreak, harshness and abuse they have received from relatives, they consistently say "because they are the only family (sister, mother, son) that I have. I felt a lot of anguish for them. I also sensed another unamed relative looming in the unspoken tension that I can only attribute to a suspicision that Stevie may have been fathered by a close blood relative. I couldn't help but think some of his problems were coming from a sort of biological base...perhaps something related to an abusive event from literally the earliest moment. It is too easy to say, though, that Stevie is living as he is because of his background of abuse and poverty. There are plenty of resilient children who have lived the same or worse but somehow carve out a different and more satisfying life. Some say it must be the experience of love in infancy, even if it is later lost. I don't know, but I sure feel for Stevie. I was also very touched by Tonya. A good and dignified person, and not someone I would likely come to know without Steve James' movie. Thank you Steve James. Expand
  6. 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. Expand
  7. 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. Expand

See all 10 User Reviews