×
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.

With:
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

  • Britney Spears Musical

    Britney Spears Musical 'Once Upon a One More Time's' Film Rights Land at Sony

    Sony Pictures has won screen rights to the Broadway-bound “Once Upon a One More Time,” a fairy tale featuring classic songs from Britney Spears, sources have confirmed to Variety. John Davis’ Davis Entertainment will produce the film along with Spears and her manager, Larry Rudolph. Neither a writer nor a director has yet been attached. [...]

  • ‘Girl on the Train’ India Remake

    ‘Girl on the Train’ Indian Remake Set at Reliance Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    India’s Reliance Entertainment will produce the official Indian remake of Tate Taylor’s 2016 film “The Girl on the Train.” Ribhu Dasgupta, who is currently completing Netflix series “Bard Of Blood,” being produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, will direct. Parineeti Chopra (“Kesari”) will star. Production will commence at U.K. locations from mid-July. Based [...]

  • 'Avengers: Endgame' Cast Gets Hands and

    Watch Live: 'Avengers' Cast Gets Hands and Feet Cemented at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood

    The Avengers have left an indelible mark on popular culture and now they are doing the same to the cement floor outside of the TCL Chinese Theater. Watch the livestream video of “Avengers: Endgame” cast Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans,  Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige imprinting [...]

  • Zachary Levi

    'Shazam!' Star Zachary Levi to Host 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards

    “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi will be suiting up next for the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards in June. Levi will emcee the award show on June 17 at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. Nominees will be announced in the coming weeks. Fresh off DC Comics’ latest blockbuster, Levi is no stranger to [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy Remembers Steve Golin as 'A Warrior and a Mensch'

    It was a brutal process to get “Spotlight” made. The movie was dead at least three times before we shot it because of financing problems, studio problems, deadlines, actors’ availability and the time of year we could shoot. There were moments when Steve and I were just going at it. We’d have hilarious late-night correspondence. [...]

  • "A War Within"

    SF Studios Scoops International Sales to 'Grandpas,' 'A War Within' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SF Studios has scooped international sales rights to Santiago Requejo’s heartfelt comedy drama “Grandpas” and Kasper Torsting’s WWI-set Danish love drama “A War Within” in the run up to Cannes. Both films are third-party pickups. “Grandpas” is a high-profile Spanish movie starring Carlos Iglesias (“Crossing Borders”), Roberto Álvarez (“Talk to her”) and Ramón Barea (“Everybody [...]

  • 'Gemini Man' First Trailer Drops With

    Will Smith Faces Off Against Himself in Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Trailer

    Will Smith battles a familiar antagonist in the official trailer for Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” — himself. Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media dropped dazzling new footage of the futuristic sci-fi drama, scored to a haunting version of “Forever Young,” that sees Smith playing an elite assassin. Things get tricky when he finds out the man [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content