Making the Grades
A Civil Action is an exceptionally intelligent film that covers the true story of a group of parents who believe that the recent deaths of eight children from their community are linked to possible water contamination. Having little money, but hoping for help, the parents call Jan Schilichtmann (John Travolta), a high profile personal injury lawyer who scavenges for cases he's sure he can win.
The parents' goal isn't personal financial compensation. Instead they want to understand the cause, know who's responsible, and receive an apology. At first the cocky Schilichtmann declines, explaining that they cannot recover legal costs on that basis; but after discovering that two large corporations could be found negligent, he has a change of heart. However, this complex case is more than the usual "hit and runs" his firm handles. Taking an incredible risk, Schilichtmann and his partners absorb the initial costs of the case and put everything they have on the line in hopes of a huge settlement.
The story begins as the classic "give it all you've got" tale, and you are expecting big returns for the heros in the end. Yet, while Schilichtmann is in it for the money at the beginning, his interest in the parents becomes far more personal. In particular, the experience of one couple whose child dies on the freeway en route to a medical appointment, wakes him up to the suffering these families have endured.
Teens are likely to enjoy the cunning battles and candid views of the legal system, and with absolutely no sexual content or violence, parents may be keen to share this movie with them. There is only one objection: The language. Three occasions of the classic sexual expletive, terms of Deity, and other moderate profanities are present. If the MPAA would hold to their guidelines that dictate that no more than one sexual expletive will be allowed in a PG-13 movie, I'm sure that at least two of these unnecessary words would have been cut, making this fine film more civil.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about A Civil Action.
This film subtly says much about the things we prioritize in our lives. What was Jan’s initial priority and what have his priorities become by the end of the film? What do the parents value the most? And what was most important to defense lawyer Jerome Facher (Robert Duvall)?