Richard Kelly seems to have the deck stacked against him. Growing up with a mostly absent father (violent when present), a mother struggling to raise a family alone, and exposed to an environment of alcohol and drug abuse, there's isn't much to hope for in life. Just when he thinks his life has turned around and he is celebrating the procurement of a highly sought after job, he ends up answering the summons of a friend. Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. That fateful decision shapes the rest of his future in ways he never could have dreamed. He is arrested for assaulting an officer. There goes his dream job and the hope of rising out of the poverty his mother has battled for so many years.
When all seems lost, his lawyer manages to arrange a deal for Richard to be released on probation to attend an all-white seminary (the one his mother had applied to on his behalf). With very little choice in the matter, Richard accepts. But his struggles aren't over. Being the first African American student to attend this seminary doesn't make him very popular. As events unfold, it becomes obvious that Richard is merely a pawn in yet another game--to help make a name for the seminary (and ultimately the president himself) in bringing in more black students and faculty.
The movie, based on true events, provides a rare glimpse into the struggles of the civil rights era. The saving grace for Richard is his friendship with the seminary groundskeeper and his wife. This African-American couple serve as surrogate parents to Richard while he attends school. The husband, Samuel, takes time to challenge Richard's views of his life and even his memories of his father.
The movie is rated PG-13; while the material is heavy, and not necessarily appropriate for younger viewers, I do feel the movie is worth viewing for high school students with their parents. It provides a realistic view of a tumultuous period in America's history and how one young man rose above his circumstances. One of the most beautiful aspects of the film was the mentoring relationship of Samuel toward Richard. Richard may have started out as the least among the seminary, but in the end proved to be the greatest in courage, principle and faith. And while society might consider Samuel the "least" among the faculty, he was actually the greatest teacher and model to Richard (even more so than the seminary professors).
This was a very thought-provoking, albeit painful glimpse of one man's struggle to be a light and a leader for others to follow. You can secure your own copy of the film at the following retailers:
Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of The Least Among You for the purpose of reviewing and blogging about my opinion of the movie. No other compensation was received. The views expressed are my own.