Making the Grades
Female empowerment is a popular theme in film and rightly so. We should acknowledge the abilities and strength of women, even if they are occasionally exaggerated for the sake of entertainment. Unfortunately this celebration often comes at the expense of men, and most notably dads who are frequently portrayed as dumb, distracted or worse.
In their script, Christian filmmakers Stephen and Alex Kendrick reaffirm the important role of men, especially in the lives of children. Too bad some potential audience members will let the descriptor "Christian" keep them from seeing this powerful message. The negative consequences of absentee fathers aren’t just a religious issue, academic evidence agrees.
Courageous focuses on four Albany sheriff’s deputies who put their lives on the line to fight gang and drug crime in the community. Courage is a given on the job. But exercising that same kind of commitment to watch another’s back is sometimes lost when they get home. The realization that needs to change overwhelms Adam (Alex Kendrick) after his nine-year-old daughter Emily (Lauren Etchells) is killed by a drunk driver. Devastated by his daughter’s sudden loss, he is finally reminded by his wife that he still has a son to parent, one who is also grieving.
That reality, combined with the impact of absent or ineffectual dads he sees on the job, leads him to pen a resolution outlining his renewed commitment as a father. To keep him honest, he asks three of his fellow officers, Nathan (Ken Bevel), Shane (Kevin Downes) and David (Ben Davis) as well as his handyman Javier (Robert Amaya) to witness the signing of his contract. But they do one better and resolve to put all their signatures to paper.
Following the signing ceremony attended by the men’s families, the script kickstarts a new storyline (making the film longer than necessary). Yet the purpose is to show that making a resolution is one thing; keeping it in the face of opposition, disappointment and difficult circumstances is another. Among them, one struggles to provide for his family, another to connect with his teen and a third to communicate to his daughter the unease he feels about the boys she hangs out with (she misconstrues her dad’s concern with overprotection).
The film’s quality along with its musical score and technical effects are a vast improvement over many other productions in this genre. And content is limited to an extended exchange of gunfire between police and drug dealers, a car theft, dishonesty, and a Taser incident. Illegal drug trafficking is negatively portrayed.
Not only do these men honor their role as fathers, they do it together. For them, the injunction to “Serve and Protect” becomes more than just words worn on their chests.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Courageous.
Given the dangers they are exposed to and the importance of their roles in society, are the salaries of first responders adequate? Do we often under compensate those who serve, protect and save the lives of others? Why is the sense of brotherhood so important among police officers?
After Adam loses his daughter, he is asked if he wants to be angry for the time he missed with her or grateful for the time he had with her. Why is it easy to second-guess decisions or focus on regrets at times like this?
One day Adam announces to his family that he has had a "good day". What happened to make him feel that way? What does that signify in his grief process? How would you define a good day?
Two great websites to check out: The National Fatherhood Initiative and the official website for Courageous in the U.S. and Courageous in Canada. All of these sites offer excellent resources pertaining to fatherhood.