Making the Grades
"A True Story." These words are emblazoned over the opening scenes of this movie, while the tiny fine print at the end includes the usual clause about events being dramatized. When reviewing movies from a parent's perspective, I am often more willing to justify violent and sexual content if it is a rare case where these elements are critical to accurately portraying the original story.
Even with its claim of truth, I can only cautiously recommend White Squall for an adolescent audience, which is unfortunate because its messages are valuable. Parents will want to review this film, or at the very least, watch it with their older children, as some may be offended by the language and sexual content. Yet, given the benefit of the doubt that the filmmakers have been true to the original account (a generous benefit indeed), Squall presents a truly riveting story and shows the power of leadership, loyalty, and accepting responsibility.
Set on a school ship, Squall is a story about a group of boys learning sailing skills along with traditional school subjects. As the story progresses, the real lesson of this movie takes form, as the boys are challenged to stretch beyond their comfort zones and eventually recognize that only by working together can they achieve the required results. One boy cheats in English. Rather than turn him in, his shipmates literally fight to the conclusion that they can each help him learn what he needs to know. Another, afraid to climb the mast, conquers his fear with the acceptance of friends.
But for each of these wonderful moments, the scriptwriters insist on placing sex as a priority in the boys' lives. In one scene, a young attractive Dutch girl, unable to understand a word of English, drops her clothes as an opening gesture to one boy. This may be the boy's account, but is it the truth? I suspect not, and the scene only reinforces the belief of many young men that girls are eager to have a sexual experience. Parents, sail these waters with caution.