Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 11+
Coming-of-age story with strong Christian messages.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry is a straightforward Christian message film which promotes faith in God and Jesus, living in accordance with the teachings of The Bible, and the power of forgiveness. Set in 1970, the story involves a bully, a young boy's first crush, and the formative religious awakening of a group of 13-year-olds. It's focused on boys and their adult male mentors, leaving the only two featured female characters very much in the background. A sympathetic African-American man (the only person of color in the film) turns out to have had a troubled past. Spoiler alert: Near the end of the movie the unexpected death of a principal character impacts everyone.
- Families can talk about the purpose of movies. Movies are made to entertain, educate, or persuade (or any combination of these elements). What is this movie's main purpose? Is it important for the viewer to understand a film's purpose? Why?
- Why do you think the filmmakers chose to set this fictional movie in 1970? What about that period in our history, as opposed to modern day, did they feel would help them tell their tale?
The good stuff
Positive messages: This movie's intent is to encourage belief and participation in the tenets of Christianity. The film's opening frame declares: "The following story is fictional and was created to show how one person's faith may inspire others." Many religious messages follow, delivered by a kindly older man and later by the boys he influences: "The Lord is interested in everything in our lives"; "Everything in the Bible is there to make our lives better"; "Love your enemies; Do good to them that hate you," and more. There are multiple references to death, Heaven, and Hell.
Positive role models: A strong Christian man is presented as an ideal role model. Jonathan Perry is generous, patient, wise, and forgiving. He is able to transform everyone he encounters; his goodness touches all, especially a group of 13-year-old boys at a formative time in their lives. Girls are on the periphery of the story. They're not included in any of the Bible study groups and we are never privy to their thoughts or feelings. The only African-American character, though sympathetic, turns out to have had a tragic and troubled past.
What to watch for
Violence: Not an issue
Sexy stuff: Not an issue
Language: Not an issue
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue