Critic Reviews



Based on 21 critic reviews provided by
Chadwick strikes a perfect balance between humor and tragic gravity, and the result is that an unknown story seems certain to stir the hearts of audiences worldwide.
The uplifting true story of world's oldest primary school student, The First Grader reels you in with its human-interest hook, but packs an even more vital agenda: enlisting Kenyan locals to share little-known details of their nation's independence.
Anchored by a lovely performance from Oliver Litondo as Maruge and an exuberant Naomie Harris as Jane Obinchu, the school principal who champions his cause, the result is a tearful, joyful, imperfect, yet nearly irresistible ode to the human spirit.
The First Grader offers a tumultuous but uplifting journey.
Director Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") shows admirable restraint bringing this true story to the screen, and Litando does much with glimmers of emotion and wells of dignity.
Plays more like a teaching tool than a dynamic drama.
This ambition - to provoke thought while tugging at heartstrings - makes The First Grader fascinating and frustrating in almost equal measure.
Too bad the script is predictable at every turn.
A lot of history gets horned into this undeniably inspirational parable, though slick execution and simplistic storytelling make it a lesson suitable only for easily impressed elementary-school students.
Village Voice
Chadwick veers frequently into flashbacks to Maruge's past as a Mau Mau resistance fighter-mostly prolonged scenes of torture and violence that do little to inform or propel the present-day story. Poorly defined tribal lines flare up, and Jane's life is threatened, the point at which the script's Hollywood contrivances open up and swallow this often charming film whole.

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