Critic Reviews

67

Metascore

Based on 15 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
90
The film ends on up notes, but its strength is that it's not really a feel-good movie, instead shining a light on both how far we have come in terms of race in America and how very far we still have to go.
80
American Promise shows the emotional toll that each boy endures, not only from the image that their privileged peers have of minority males but, accordingly, their own lack of confidence.
80
Because the stories are so specific, and because they play out over such a long period of time, it is hard not to be fascinated by this intimate look at how particular families deal with the great parental challenge of shepherding their children through the all-important educational experience.
75
The documentary is often fascinating, even as it eschews any kind of traditional narrative.
75
The result is an extended home movie that is also a sociological experiment.
70
American Promise succeeds in touching on a wealth of subjects without overreaching.
67
Ultimately, American Promise seems split between a personal perspective and a broader one. It's a bold experiment that's also a textbook case of filmmakers being too close to their material.
63
The documentary's lack of a cohesive thesis may frustrate at times, but its power lies in its exposition of the mundane.
63
It's a baggy movie, with some things (such as whether Idris taking Ritalin in high school improved his performance) unexplained, and it may appeal most to those raising kids themselves.
60
While Stephenson and Brewster's big-picture attempt to tackle a sociopolitical issue from the most personal of perspectives lacks the state-of-the-nation impact of that landmark doc, it doesn't mean you won't feel the pleasure of these kids' triumphs, the pain of their tragedies or the pressures of ambition, affecting parents as much as students.
60
American Promise, shot over a period of 13 years, is by no means a wasted effort. At the same time, though, it's hard not to wonder whether directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson (who are married) wound up with a film that even remotely resembles whatever vague idea they had in mind back in 1999.
60
The New York Times
Race is raised as a possible reason for Idris's and Seun's problems, and then other potential determinants (a learning disorder, illness) are introduced. But the filmmakers don't engage with these life events and issues: They just line them up as if their significance were transparent.
50
By the end you can't help but wonder whether it was a good idea to keep the youngsters under camera scrutiny for more than 12 years.

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