Charlotte Observer

By Lawrence Toppman
I have never seen elementary schoolers more passionate about education than the ones I met at a school in rural Kenya, not far from the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
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The Hollywood Reporter

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.
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The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

By Rick Groen
This is potentially compelling, but truncated flashbacks are far too crude a mechanism for exploring not only the intricacies of that tumultuous period in Kenyan history but also its ongoing legacy.
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San Francisco Chronicle

By Amy Biancolli
For all of its brutal flashbacks and heavy-handed devices, The First Grader works best when it works quietly.
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Orlando Sentinel

By Roger Moore
Never graduates to the uplifting tale it sets out to be.
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New York Daily News

By Joe Neumaier
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.
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Entertainment Weekly

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Plays more like a teaching tool than a dynamic drama.
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New York Post

By V.A. Musetto
Too bad the script is predictable at every turn.
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Boston Globe

By Mark Feeney
You marvel all the more at Litondo's and Harris's performances, considering how much claptrap Ann Peacock's script requires them to put up with.
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Washington Post

By Michael O'Sullivan
It's heartwarming. But the film never really takes fire.
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56 out of 100
Mixed or average reviews
Metascore® based on all critic reviews. Scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.