You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story’

Sara Hirsh Bordo's documentary is an engaging portrait of its courageous subject, but a superficial rallying cry for anti-bullying legislation.

Lizzie Velasquez, Tina Meier.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3735302/

Sara Hirsh Bordo’s cheerfully upbeat documentary offers an engaging if heavily sugared portrait of a courageous woman triumphing over a disfiguring genetic mutation that prevents her from gaining weight. Tracking the young Texan’s passage from bullied child to self-assured motivational speaker and lobbyist, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story” is strong on Velasquez’s developing backbone and smarts with the support of school and family. As a rallying cry for anti-bullying legislation, however, the film is superficial, glossing over the rather vague and toothless act that Velasquez is still trying to push through Congress together with Tina Meier, the mother of an online bullying victim who committed suicide. Though Bordo is a touch too inclined to nudge Velasquez into sainthood, such is the force of her charm and determination that “A Brave Heart” will likely appeal to audiences beyond anti-bullying activists and disability advocates, though mostly in VOD, where it will debut simultaneously with its theatrical release.

In the first moments of “A Brave Heart,” a woman enters the frame, sits down, adjusts her hair and smiles. The gesture may be common enough in any woman about to appear in public; in Velasquez, a disability and anti-bullying activist in her 20s, it’s momentous and telling. Her hair is just dandy, but her face is wizened, her vision impaired, and her 58-pound body is as stick-thin as that of a skinny girl on the cusp of adolescence. Afflicted with a syndrome that, undiagnosed for years, prevents her from gaining weight, Velasquez can be a shock to behold on first encounter. But this articulate, intelligent woman carries herself with preternatural confidence, grace and unflappable friendliness. So much so that we quickly come to take for granted that her upcoming talk in front of a live Mexican audience of 10,000 will be a breeze for her and her listeners.

How Velasquez got to be an accomplished TED Talker from her radically premature birth is the journey followed in Bordo’s documentary, which is as sunny and positive as its subject. Bordo has abundant dramatic instincts: Velasquez’s transformation begins in teenage crisis, when an online bully posts a YouTube calling her “the Ugliest Woman in the World.” The video’s online traction and attendant cruel commentary devastate her — until she decides to fight fire with fire. With unfailing support from her terrific family, she creates her own, more conciliatory video, becomes an adept user of social media, and launches a thriving career as a motivational speaker.

At times the film comes across as boosterish publicity, stuffed with celebrity encounters that aren’t really necessary, the most awkward of which is a perfunctory meeting with Hillary Clinton, who seems to have been inadequately briefed on exactly to whom she’s talking.

Aside from one heartfelt conversation with Meier about their darker moments and brief scenes of Velasquez falling ill on her journey through the Capitol, “A Brave Heart” prefers uplift, neglecting the monumental effort it must have taken Velasquez’s equanimity, to say nothing of the stress on the family, in particular once she receives a daunting prognosis. The anti-bullying bill is lauded without scrutiny of its bland, possibly inoperable call for “zero tolerance” of school and online bullying. That this is controversial terrain — is it even possible to legislate against bullying? — goes unmentioned along with the much-discussed possibility voiced in passing by the subject’s father, that bullies are often damaged people, as sorely in need of help as their victims. Velasquez’s signal contribution to that debate may not be her lobbying, but her remarkably generous, forgiving nature and her charismatic sparkle. If ever there was a poster child for the adage that living well is the best revenge, it’s Lizzie Velasquez.

Film Review: 'A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, Aug. 23, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 78 MIN.

Production: (Documentary) A Cinedigm Entertainment release of a Women Rising production. Produced by Sara Hirsh Bordo. Executive producers, Julia Argyros, Stephanie Argyros, Lizzie Velasquez, Alexis Jones, Justine Ezarik.

Crew: Directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo. Written by Michael Campo. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Ben Powell; editor, Christopher Roldan; music, Sara Bareilles, Javier Dunn; re-recording mixer, Brad Engleking line producer, Jessica Chou; associate producers, Ngoc Nguyen, Tamar Teifeld, Michael Campo, Joanne Storkan.

With: Lizzie Velasquez, Tina Meier.

More Film

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Xavier Legrand's 'Custody' Wins Best Film at 44th Cesar Awards

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated short, [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in a Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. More Reviews Album Review: Lil Pump's 'Harverd Dropout' Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches' The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content