A Chance in the World – Movie Review

In theaters on Tuesday, May 30th only

a one-night event only

Learn more & find a theater

A Story of Courage

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This quotation came to mind as I watched Stephen, the young boy in the movie “A Chance in the World,” go through the horrors of his daily life as a foster child of the Robinson family. Stephen dealt with things that no child should ever have to face, but thanks to his courage, and some help from his teacher, he escaped the situation and found not only safety, but true family.

The Story of Steve Pemberton

“A Chance in the World” chronicles the pre-teen and teenage years of Steve Pemberton, the foster child of the Robinson family. Stephen shares that he has been in more foster homes than he can count, and that his goal in life is simply to find out where he came from, who his real parents were. This goal permeates his story, always nagging at him. The story shows the horrors Stephen faces at the hands of Betty, Willie, and the two biological children in the Robinson family. Physical abuse, constant fear, and emotional abuse that will make your stomach turn. He is taught to say “house rules,” which include statements about how horrible he is and how no one will ever want him. He is beaten for things done by his siblings, or for no reason at all. And yet, he maintains excellent grades at school. Books are his go-to to escape his reality, and he is invited by one of his teachers, John Sykes, to be a part of a program for underprivileged youth that will lead to scholarship opportunities for college. Throughout the story, Mr. Sykes really takes Stephen under his wing, trying to help him in any way he can.

Facing Fear Head On

When Stephen finally came to the decision that he wouldn’t take anymore, he went to his case worker for help. Unfortunately the process of getting out was pretty scary. It led to Stephen fearing for his life, but he was able to escape and get the help he needed. Stephen learned what Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about when she said that looking fear in the face and doing the thing you think you cannot do will lead to strength, courage, and confidence. Stephen ended up in a much better situation, with true family, even though they were not biological. He found support, trust, and love. He left his horrible past behind him, and made a great future for himself through his hard work. The story of redemption is strong in this movie, as Stephen is redeemed from a childhood of pain because of his courage. If he never had the courage to speak up against his abusers, his life would have looked very different. If a teacher hadn’t stepped up to help a bright, but needy young man, he may not be where he is today. A Chance in the World is a story of courage, a story of the importance of speaking out against injustice and stepping in to help, and a story of redemption.

What Now?

The horrors that this Stephen faced literally kept me awake at night. I couldn’t get the “house rules” about his worthlessness out of my head. I wanted to put Betty Robinson through everything she put him through. “It’s just a movie,” I told myself, trying hard to fall asleep. But I knew it was more than that. I knew it was reality for the real character the movie was based on. And while I may not know them personally, I know there are kids out there living through their own horrors. And I knew that the real reason I was lying awake wasn’t because of Steve Pemberton’s story, but because of the many stories that I am quite certain unfold in my own city every day. A Chance in the World is a gripping movie, one that is tough to watch at times, but one that will stay with you, and move you to take action. You may not be able to be a foster parent or to adopt, but you can help provide care for children while their foster parents receive training, you can donate to shelters that help neglected or abused children, you can provide respite care for foster parents in need of a break, and you can pray. You can take Steve Pemberton’s example of courage, and speak out against injustice. Perhaps, if we all do our part, we can provide more children a chance in the world.


Only in movie theaters for one night!

Learn more & find a theater


Julie McConnell

Julie is a life-long Hoosier, wife, and mother of two. When she is not working in her pharmacy, she spends her time with her husband and daughters in Indianapolis. She is a member of Geist Christian Church and enjoys playing outside with her girls, finding fun things to do in Indy, watching football, and reading bedtime stories.


How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth