Amazing Grace Parent Guide
An inspiring true story of one man's quest to eliminate the slave trade.
Parent Movie Review
Most of us know how slavery ended in the United States – with a Civil War that lasted for five years and killed over 600,000 men. Less well known is the story of how the trade in human beings ended in the British Empire. It is a less bloody tale, but is an inspiring account of tenacity, dedication, and an unbreakable resolve to eradicate a great evil.
Amazing Grace recounts the history of abolition in Great Britain from the perspective of William Wilberforce (Ioan Grufford), a young man on fire with religious devotion. Wilberforce is a kind-hearted idealist, opening his home to feed beggars and vagrants, advocating for an end to cruelty to animals, and speaking out for public education. He is determined to dedicate his life to God until a visit from a friend, William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) alters his path. Pitt’s eyes are on the Prime Ministership and he wants his school friend to serve by his side in Parliament. Aware that Wilberforce’s heart is centered on God’s will more than earthly power, Pitt convinces him that he can serve God through government service – and the carrot he dangles before Wilberforce is the opportunity to legislate an end to slavery in the British Empire. Rising to the bait, Wilberforce runs for office and takes a seat at Westminster in 1780 at 21 years of age. But the battle to end the slave trade will not be easy…
Amazing Grace is the best kind of historical drama. Forget the dusty period films you saw on TV with pasteboard sets and stiff acting – this movie has top quality production values with gorgeous English locations, lovely costumes and top shelf English acting talent. Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, Romola Garai, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, and Rufus Sewell are just some of the talented actors who give powerful, authentic performances that transport us to the 18th century. Parents or teachers who want teens to learn from and about the past can’t do better than this film.
Not only is the movie fascinating to watch, its entire narrative is built on positive messages. Wilberforce’s struggle to ban the slave trade was to take almost 30 years and would cut up his peace of mind and destroy his health. His life is a moving story of integrity, persistence, and commitment to moral beliefs that all of us hope our teens will learn from and emulate. And, best of all, these praiseworthy themes come with a paucity of negative content. The most troubling issues in the film are discussions of the cruelties inflicted on the slaves with mention of rape, abuse and other types of violence. This shouldn’t be a surprise – a movie about slavery is going to include disturbing content because slavery is the epitome of institutionalized violence. That it can be defeated – and without bloodshed – is the great message of this film. In the words of Wilberforce’s childhood priest, a reformed slave ship captain who penned a great hymn, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come. “Twas grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.”Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release February 22, 2007. Updated April 23, 2020
Watch the trailer for Amazing Grace
Rating & Content Info
Why is Amazing Grace rated PG? Amazing Grace is rated PG by the MPAA thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language
With only a PG rating, this film contains fewer content concerns than many others dealing with this difficult topic. Still, there are disturbing and graphic discussions of the slave trade and conditions on the slave ships. Some brief portrayals of slave abuse are also seen along with the cruel beating of an animal. To deal with his declining health, a patient is prescribed the medicinal use of opiates. Social drinking is shown on frequent occasions and in another instance, a man appears to be drunk. The script uses infrequent mild profanities and occasional racial slurs.
Page last updated April 23, 2020
Amazing Grace Parents' Guide
Slavery becomes a hot political topic in the British Parliament with many legislators seeming to vote according to party lines rather than personal conscience. What issues may have a similar effect on current politicians? Are there subjects that should be above party lines?
What costs did the elimination of the slave trade pose for ship owners, the government’s treasury and invested interests? Who else would have had their livelihood threatened? What difficulties would the slaves themselves face?
Persistence leads to change by small degrees. What sacrifices does William Wilberforce make for the cause he believes in? Who else makes similar commitments? What would you be willing to do for a cause you believe in?
For more information and a study guide for teachers, visit this film’s official website at www.amazinggracemovie.com.
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you're interested in the real effects of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade for those enslaved, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes (also published as Someone Knows My Name) details a young girl’s life starting with her kidnapping in Nigeria and subsequent sale into slavery. More detailed accounts of slavery in the United States include Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, which tell of their authors’ personal experience with both enslavement and freedom.
The most recent home video release of Amazing Grace movie is November 12, 2007. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Released in 1977, the miniseries Roots tells the story of Africans captured and shipped across the sea as slaves. Both Freedom Song (which portrays four African-American university students who challenged segregation by sitting at a white lunch counter in Mississippi) and Something the Lord Made (that depicts medical discoveries made by an African-American), deal with the lingering prejudices faced by the descendants of former slaves. If you’re looking for more classic British political drama, A Man for All Seasons focuses on Sir Thomas More, who refused to abandon his faith and acknowledge his King’s assumption of religious power.