Making the Grades
Earl (Robert Duvall) is a good 'ol boy from Arkansas who would do anything for his mother. After her death, the local preacher hands him a letter that his mom wanted him to read at this very time. Within it, Earl learns that the lady he has loved all his life is not his mom. Even more incredible, Earl's mother was a black lady who had become pregnant by his white father, and died giving birth to Earl. Now, years later, Earl's mother insists in the letter that he get to know Ray (James Earl Jones), his black brother.
Widowed, Ray lives in Chicago with his blind Aunt T. (Irma Hall) and his divorced son. Ray has no interest in his white brother, who he was well aware of since childhood. But coincidence and determination bring Earl and Ray into each other's lives more than either expected, and through the magic of movies, the two of them begin understanding each other as each scene goes by.
This movie is definitely not suitable for the entire family, with language being the biggest problem. Many vulgarities are in the script, even though Aunt T. "don't allow no takin' of the Lord's name in vain." Among other concerns for parents are a violent carjacking where Earl is beaten and a childbirth scene which, although not explicit, contains a small amount of nudity.
But even with the content concerns, there are great truths to be learned in this film. The natural way this movie is presented really enhances your understanding for the character's situations. Although not suitable for pre-teens, with parental guidance this movie can provide older teens and adults with insight into family relationships and racial prejudice. By watching with your older children, parents can try and help them understand how difficult the problems presented would be if they were their own.
Prejudice and family secrets are far more complex than can be shown in two hours, but A Family Thing at least provides a little understanding into how important family relationships are to all of us.