Angelina Jolie (“In the Land of Blood & Honey“, “Unbroken“) delivers us another very poignant look at the cost of war with “First They Killed My Father“. Adapted from the book of the same name, “First They Killed My Father” gives a first person look at the horrors of the Khmer Rouge’s communist regime and the toll it took on the Cambodian people. Starting with the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975, “First They Killed My Father” follows 5-year-old Loung Ung and her family through tortuous trials and horrendous tribulations as they try to survive the rule of the dictator Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army. We follow Leong (Sareum Srey Moch) through the loss of her parents to her move to the labor fields to her being trained to be a Khmer Rouge soldier, all while fighting to keep her family together. A child who has to grow up quickly or be another victim of the vicious genocide that took so many lives during Pol Pot’s four-year reign, Leong battles through all this and finds her way back to the family that remains. Angelina Jolie and a cast of outstanding actors bring to light a time and subject that I think many people knew about, but truly didn’t understand the magnitude of depravity that was unleashed on the beautiful land and people of Cambodia.
There is so much to learn from “First They Killed My Father” historically, politically and most of all about humanity,compassion and strength. A script that could bring all that to the forefront and educate the world on what true horror looks like is a rare gem that we should cherish. Loung Ung’s novel of personal strife and courage if left in the wrong hands would have lost its power, but masterfully her and Angelina Jolie, who also helped adapt the script, put together a film of poignant memories and spectacular courage. Jolie’s takes the word off the page and onto the screen with such a grace and dedication that it is clear that she holds the subject and the people dear to her heart. In “First They Killed My Father” Jolie uses the juxtaposition of the rich vibrant colors and beautiful landscapes of Cambodia to contrast the horrors perpetrated against the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge to show the strength and determination of the subjugated masses. Truthfully as beautifully shot as this film is the shining star has to be the actors. With very little dialogue, the actors (most of them relative new comers) had to convey every terrifying, heart wrenching moment of a time where hope was fleeting and torment was an everyday occurrence. The level of talent in this film was outstanding and the brightest light radiated from the young actress who the movie focused on, Sareum Srey Moch. To have to carry such a heavy movie at such a young age and do it with so much conviction this young actress has a very bright future in film if she wants. There is not one thing about “First They Killed My Father” that does not show an attention to detail and compassion for a story that so desperately needed to be shared with the world, it is simply a masterpiece.
“First They Killed My Father” is streaming on Netflix and I highly suggest it to anyone that loves a well crafted story, a finely made film, or a poignant look into the horrors of humanity and the strength of the human spirit. Though the movie does have a long run time the movie draws you into it and doesn’t let go of your heart until the very end (just make sure you have that box of tissues you’re gonna need them). I cried and even smiled a few times, “First They Killed My Father” is one of the best movies I have seen in quite a while and if this film doesn’t get some nods during the awards season I will be seriously shocked. I can not stress enough how amazing a film this is and how much I think everyone should see it. So check it out and let “First They Killed My Father” guide your emotions through the tangled paths of a horrific history and the beautiful triumph of the soul.